This may sound very cliché, but with all of the horrors going on in the world today, horror filmmakers must think of new tactics to make their movies frightening. One such strategy is to combine genres in a movie. This way, even if the film isn’t necessarily scary, it can still catch the viewer off guard. Such is the state of ALL SOULS DAY: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, a film which takes several turns throughout the course of its story, leading the viewer to believe that it’s a certain type of film, and then shifting gears.
ALL SOULS DAY is set in the Mexican village of Santa Bonita. The film opens with two scenes depicting unfortunate occurrences in the town. The first, set in 1892, shows a tragedy befalling Santa Bonita. The second takes place in 1952, as we see a family (featuring Jeffrey Combs and Ellie Cornell) encounter sinister doings at the local hotel. The action then leaps forward to the present. Joss (Travis Wester) and Alicia (Marisa Ramirez) are traveling through Mexico to Alicia’s parent’s house. When they reach Santa Bonita, Joss becomes distracted and their car crashes into a funeral procession. As if that weren’t bad enough, they immediately realize that the person in the coffin is alive!
Joss seeks the assistance of the local sheriff (David Keith) who assures him that the situation will be handled. However, Joss’s car is damaged and there’s no garage in town. Joss and Alicia decide to seek shelter at the hotel, where they meet the mysterious Martia (Laura Harring). Despite Martia’s cold hospitality, Joss and Alicia still feel very uncomfortable in Santa Bonita and decide that they must leave as soon as possible. In order to do this, Joss calls his friend Tyler (Laz Alonso) to come and pick them up. When Tyler arrives, with girlfriend, Erica (Nichole Hiltz) in tow, night has fallen and odd things begin to happen in the village. Before the group can leave Santa Bonita that the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday has a completely in the village and that a sinister curse has the town in its grip.
As noted above, the ALL SOULS DAY script, written by co-producer Mark A. Altman, mixes things up a bit. The opening scene in 1892 implies a western theme. Then, when the family visits Santa Bonita in 1952, there’s an implication that the town is haunted. As the story involving Joss and Alicia gets underway, the mood leans more towards a town with a sinister secret, but nothing that’s seemingly supernatural. When we finally learn the truth, and the dead begin to walk, the story comes full circle. The film does a nice job of keeping the plot moving along without spoon-feeding the audience. Actually, it’s not until the third act that we finally learn exactly what’s happening in Santa Bonita. The script contains some nice twists and playfully toys with the conventions of zombie movies without wandering into fan-boy land.
But, aside from the fact that the script has an interesting structure, there’s not much else in ALL SOULS DAY to distinguish it from its contemporaries. While the story gives out information and scares at a deliberate pace, the middle portion of the film drags somewhat. Director Jeremy Kasten (THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS) does a fine job with the “scary” scenes, but the dialogue-filled moments are somewhat awkward. The finale is well-done, but there is one death which is simply pointless and gave me the feeling that the filmmakers didn’t know how to get rid of this character. The film’s opening hints at a creepy mood which never resurfaces in the movie. There are many horrific moments in the film, but there is little suspense or excitement.
The cast does a good job, most notably Travis Wester, whose infectious energy keeps ALL SOULS DAY moving along. And the cameos by Jeffrey Combs, Ellie Cornell, Danny Trejo, and David Keith are nice. As far as I can tell, ALL SOULS DAY premiered on cable, but the version contained on this DVD contains gore and nudity and is not rated. ALL SOULS DAY isn’t a bad movie, as it offers a new twist on an old story, but just don’t expect anything to celebrate about.
ALL SOULS DAY: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS shuffles onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.77:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as it’s sharp and free from defects from the source material. However, the image does show some grain and the picture is somewhat dark at times. The colors are good, although Kasten has chosen a muted pallet here, and even the “Day of the Dead” decorations show dark colors. There is a slight amount of artifacting noticeable on the picture. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue. The stereo effects are fine, but I noticed that the gunshots are very muted and have no presence. The surround sound and subwoofer action comes and goes and it seems to be limited to musical cues and crowd noises.
The DVD carries several extras. We begin with an Audio Commentary from director Jeremy Kasten and writer/co-producer Mark A. Altman. The pair speak at length throughout the film and give a lot of good information concerning the production of the movie, the actors, and the locations. They are discuss the limitations of making a movie on a budget which is just above $1 million. However, they also pat themselves on the back for the clever story in the film and the way that it echoes more sophisticated movies. While they should be proud of ALL SOULS DAY, I think they go a bit far. “Raising the Undead: The Making of ALL SOULS DAY” (36 minutes) is an in-depth featurette which contains interviews with the cast & crew and lots of behind-the-scenes footage. This segment explores the story, the cast & characters, the director, and the locations. In “Faces of Death: The Makeup Effects of ALL SOULS DAY” (16 minutes) Robert Hall and Jason Collins gives details about how the effects for the film were created and the research which they conducted to give the movie an authentic look. 2nd Unit Director Danny Wayne and Stunt Coordinator Charlie Parrish guide us through “Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of ALL SOULS DAY” (17 minutes). The DVD contains one Deleted Scene and one Extended Scene. The extras are rounded out by a Storyboard Gallery and the Trailer for the film.