We begin with the following text introduction: "In 1590 Coronado dispatched a regiment of one thousand soldiers led by general Fernando Degama to find El Dorado the legendary city of gold ... they were never seen again". What better way to illustrate this point - and immediately solve this Centuries-old mystery - than to show us the soldiers locating the treasure in a cave during a pre-credits prologue, only to awaken arrow-wielding skeletons who promptly slay each one of them. Only, while the text says "one thousand soldiers" the budget here only extends to showing three of them on the screen ...
Then, following a brief opening credits sequence, we fast-forward to the present day and meet an attractive young couple: brainiac John (Ross Kelly) and his cute wife Amy (Stefani Marchesi). Madly in love, the pair travel across a quiet desert highway on their way to Amy's surprise birthday treat for hubby John. She tells him it's something he's always wanted to do but she never has. No, he's not going to take her up the shitter. She is, of course, taking him desert-racing.
Once they reach their somewhat remote location, the pair are joined by John's archaeology professor Gordon (Miguel Martinez) who has helped organise the surprise and a few of their friends who are also wannabe racers.
Donning helmets at the request of their sinister-looking guide Fred (Mike Hatfield), the group board their respective buggies and race off into the desert to the strains of 80s-style bounciness. When night falls, the group set up camp in the dunes and light a fire to stay warm. Amy presents John with another gift, a 16th Century sword. Fucking hell, it was just what he's always wanted. Hmm, will it come in useful later in the film, perhaps? Then it's time for the group to tell each other ghost stories. Gordon spins a yarn about the curse that was placed on an ancient tribe's gold which is buried nearby, and how anyone who tries to steal the treasure is butchered by undead skeletons condemned to eternally protect it. Naturally, the rest of the group scoff.
But Gordon's deadly serious. But, curiously, his advance knowledge of the terrible fate that awaits anyone who attempts to procure the gold hasn't stopped the fool from bringing along a treasure map. What a fucking plum.
The next morning John and Amy drive out to a canyon in their buggy and discover Gordon already there with his girlfriend. He reveals that he's looking for the treasure and believes he is closer than ever. At this point he even produces a replica gold coin which he carries with him, presumably to remind him what a gold coin looks like. No matter that the one he carries looks like a prawn cracker that's been sprayed with gold paint.
As Gordon meets with a group of dodgy soldiers of fortune led by shifty Jack (Jeff Mocho) who plan to help him find the gold for an ever-increasing fee, John returns to camp and frets to Fred that Gordon is going to get himself lost in the desert hills.
When the greedy professor and his greedier aides disappear into a darkened cavern and fail to resurface the following day, a tetchy John prompts Fred to lead a rescue expedition into the hills. But will they be equipped to deal with the terrors awaiting them?
Crikey, ARMY OF THE DEAD is one bad film. The dialogue is rum, almost as if it was written to be intentionally corny, and the performances are absurdly straight-faced considering the dumb premise.
Although the film looks good and is admittedly slick in terms of editing, each and every scene suffers from ridiculous plot implausibilities and the most laughable script imaginable.
Worse still, the action scenes - while gory - are killed by the worst CGI this side of ANACONDA. The re-animated skeletons are so phony that they are an insult to the great work pioneered by Ray Harryhausen in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, over four decades ago. Has cinema really progressed so little?
Dramatically, there is no-one to root for and no real thread to keep the viewer hooked. Instead, the confused and messy plot drifts aimlessly through bad chase scenes, bad gore scenes and bad action scenes. Director Joseph Contegiacomo (better-known as an FX artist on the likes of "Xena: Warrior Princess") ensures each sequence resembles a cheap computer game, but curiously lacking even the punch that they would offer.
In its favour, the film is funny (unintentionally) and moves along quite briskly. There can be no denying that, for a film that appears to have been shot for so little (this looks like one of those iffy TV films that turn up randomly on the Sci-Fi Channel) this is quite an ambitious concept.
But, other than being a guilty pleasure, this is tripe.
Although this screener disc was extremely basic (no extras, and not even any menus - the disc opened straight into the film), it did at least boast a good presentation of the main feature.
The 1.33:1 transfer is strong, exhibiting solid blacks and vivid colours. Night scenes are stable, while day scenes are very sharp. The film appears to be correctly framed, although the opening credits are letterboxed in 1.78:1.
The English 2.0 audio is loud, clean and consistent.
Teenage boys will get a kick out of this one - intellectually, it's akin to "Power Rangers" with lots of CGI gore thrown in. Other than that, only those who can enjoy piss-poor films for their own perverse amusement need apply.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|