While watching All Souls Day, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in “Napoleon Dynamite” in which Uncle Rico makes Napoleon and Kip watch a tape of himself tossing a football at the camera, to which Napoleon remarks “This is probably the worst video ever made.”
No, it’s not, Napoleon; not by a long shot.
All Souls Day is such an unfathomable mess of a film that, at times, I found myself throwing my hands up in exasperation. You see, I had high hopes for this film, as its director, Jeremy Kasten, was responsible for a great little flick called "The Attic Expeditions" (aka; Terror in the Attic), and I thought that the combination of a sharp, daring young director and a zombie flick set against the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration would make for a nice spin on the genre. Sadly, I was mistaken.
The film opens in a nineteenth century Mexican village, where a young man is seen stowing away a gleaming golden mask. The man is caught by Vargas Diaz (Trejo), the man who “discovered” the treasure, and is forced to take his own life to spare the lives of his wife and child. After, we see Diaz ushering the villagers toward the cave where the treasure was found, and, from a distance, we see a huge explosion.
Cut to the 1950’s; the White family is driving through Mexico, and decides to stop in at an out of the way hotel for a good night’s sleep. Tom and Sarah (Combs and Cornell) decide to get busy in their room, while their polio-stricken son, Ricky, wanders off to talk to the crazy local in the lobby, leaving his sister Lily (get it? Lily White? Oh, sweet wordplay) alone in their room to take a bath. Sis emerges from her bath to find a ghastly, skull-faced boy on her bed, runs outside into the street, and is torn apart by zombies while Ricky watches from the window with the crazy old lady.
We then cut to present day (are you following this?). Marissa and Joss (Barena and Gilbert) are en-route to Marissa’s parent’s ranch, and stop in the town of Santa Bonita to ask for directions. As they enter the town, Joss narrowly avoids running down a funeral procession, and the “mourners” scurry, leaving behind an open coffin with a naked and very much alive woman inside. Marissa discovers that the woman’s tongue has been cut out, and they seek help from Sheriff Blanco (David Keith). Blanco tells the kids he’ll take care of the woman, but Joss’ car is totaled, so he advises them to get a room at the local hotel (yes, that hotel) and he’ll help them get out of town tomorrow. Joss and Marissa comply like good fodder, and check in to the hotel with the assistance of the creepy and unsociable Martia (Harring). After a lot of wine and an afternoon tryst Marissa heads into the bathroom where she sees the specter of the aforementioned skull-faced boy, freaks out, and asks Joss to call her parents for a ride. Joss has a better idea; he’ll call his friend Tyler (Alonzo) back in Orange County, and ask him to come down to Mexico to meet them. After this call, of course, Joss’s cell phone dies.
Okay, let’s stop here for a second. Let us ignore the fact that Joss and Marissa have giggly, happy sex just moments after narrowly running down an angry mob carrying a naked woman with her tongue cut out. I’ve seen people drop their pants in horror movies under worse circumstances. But Joss has a cell phone. Why didn’t he use it to call the Mexican equivalent of 911 when he found the naked, tongueless woman (never mind the face that the mob that was going to kill her was still milling about this small town somewhere). And why, when presented with the option of whether to call Marissa’s parents (who are supposedly only a few miles away from where they are) or his friend, Tyler (who is back in the O.C.), does he choose the latter? Oh, and, if you do choose to see this film, you will notice that the highway on which Joss and Marissa are traveling seems to be pretty well-populated with vehicles, and that this town is merely a stone’s throw from said road. When the pair sensed trouble, why didn’t they just walk back up to the main road and flag down another car?
Sorry, back to the movie.
While Joss and Marina wait for Tyler, we see that Sheriff Blanco hasn’t lived up to his promise about helping the woman they’d saved earlier, as she is now locked up in one of his cells. The Sheriff has a flashback that shows us that he is, in fact, Ricky White (get it? Blanco is white in Spanish! Oh, more delicious wordplay!), and that he’s apparently been in this town since the death of his family years before. He is also somehow responsible for helping the locals sacrifice a Mexican woman every year on November 1st; the day of the dead. This particular Mexican woman wants no part of that, however, so she gets him back by killing herself!
So where do you find another Mexican woman in Mexico, and at such short notice? At the local hotel, of course, as Marissa is of Mexican descent, and will make a perfect substitute.
Meanwhile, Tyler and galpal Erica (Hiltz) arrive in time to get drugged by Martia’s special “sweet cake”, allowing Blanco and his minions to steal away Marissa for the night’s festivities. Joss, however, manages to find her before the sacrifice can be completed, and shoots Blanco, unaware that, by interrupting the ceremony, he has unleashed an army (well, more like fifteen) of the living dead upon the town.
That’s all I’m going to tell you because I don’t want to ruin the last eleven minutes of the movie (in which Erica somehow becomes a ninja). However, I will tell you that this is easily the worst film I’ve seen since…well…last week, when I finally sat through the remake of “The Fog” in its entirety. Is All Souls’ Day worse than that film? I don’t know. That’s sort of like deciding on which form of cancer you’d rather die of. Still, I laughed my head off here, while The Fog just made me want to strangle kittens, so All Souls Day earns at least a half-skull for that.
Anchor Bay releases this one with way more extra stuff than it deserves, including a commentary by Kasten and screenwriter, Mark Altman, as well as a bunch of featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, storyboard galleries, and more. You have to give Anchor Bay credit for putting so much thought into the amount of content here, because the movie itself seems as though it were written in ten minutes by a room full of screaming baboons.