All Souls Day: Dia do los Muertos is your standard low-budget zombiefest that could probably be dismissed as yet another disposable entry in a suddenly crowded sub-genre, except that the scruffy little thing actually represents a big step up for most of the participants.
Following a few film festival screenings, the flick premiered as a "Sci-Fi Channel Original," and if you've ever seen at least a half-dozen of those movies, you'll be able to recognize that All Souls Day is a marked improvement over stuff like Alien Apocalypse, Webs, or Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (for cryin' out loud!)
Harkening back to the pre-Romero zombie sensibility, in which the ravenous undead just sorta ... mill around, All Souls Day is about a small Mexican town that's populated by three types of people: shrieking young idiots, creepy townsfolk, and ravenous zombies. Of course there's all sorts of hazy back-stories and sketchy attempts at character development, but all you need to know is this: zombies eat people.
The director is Mark Kasten, whom the genre-loyal may remember as the director of the rather awful The Attic Expeditions, a flick that makes All Souls Day look the original Night of the Living Dead (or at least the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead). So here's a solid step up the ladder for Mr. Kasten.
The screenwriter is Mark Altman, whose previous credit came attached to Uwe Boll's monumentally atrocious House of the Dead. All Souls Day is a whole helluva lot more impressive than House of the Dead, even if it's not as unintentionally hilarious.
Plus All Souls Day has a few appearances from folks like Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), David Keith (Firestarter), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, Ellie Cornell (Halloween 4 & 5), Laura Harring (Willard), Nichole Hiltz (May), Mircea Monroe (Pterodactyl), and her lovely bare bosoms -- which means that the genre-aware will be able to find some familiar folks kicking some Mexican zombie keester.
Toss in a whole bunch of purple dialogue, silly plot turns, wacky flashbacks, and enough zombie-induced gore-geysers to keep the splatter-fans happy, and you're looking at a flick that's just campily entertaining to warrant a weekend rental. But only if you're a hardcore horror junkie who scours the internets looking for new monster movies to devour.
And while it's certainly rough around the edges, almost perpetually silly, and shot with too little in the lighting department, I'd rather sit down with a knowingly tacky little indie like All Souls Day than a shameless husk of a studio remake like The Fog ... not that that's any sort of enthusiastic endorsement.
Video: The movie is presented in an anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) aspect ratio, and the picture quality is pretty solid for such a low-budget affair. Hell, most of you horror geeks probably watched it on basic cable already, which means this DVD represents a huge step up.
Audio: Choose between Dobly Digital 5.1 Surround or a more basic 2.0 Stereo track. No problems on the aural end of the equation. Par for the Anchor Bay course, no subtitles are offered.
Extras: First up is a feature-length audio commentary with director Jeremy Kasten and writer/producer Mark Altman, which is suitably laid-back, jocular, chatty, informative, and only intermittently hubristic or aggrandizing.
Also included is a trio of well-produced featurettes from the Anchor Bay crew:
Raising the Undead: The Making of All Souls Day is a 36-minute featurette with interviews from Kasten, Altman, and several cast & crew members. A pretty typical love & praise-fest for all involved, it does offer some interesting stories from the All Souls Day shoot. The guys' admiration for their end product seems just a bit overstated, but hey, they're psyched about their goofy little zombie flick. I guess I would be, too.
Faces of Death: The Make-Up Effects of All Souls Day is a 16-minute up close & personal look at all the splattery goodness tossed onto the screen by FX guru Robert Hall and his team of zombie-lovin' freaks.
Jailhouse Rock: The Stunts of All Souls Day runs about 16 minutes and focuses on the workmanlike yet nifty stuntworks orchestrated by Charlie Parrish and Danny Wayne.
A second page of extras delivers a storyboard gallery, one deleted scene and one extended scene, and a handful of trailers for All Souls Day, Near Dark, Dawn of the Dead, Demon Hunter, and It Waits.
The package also includes a 16-page booklet with several still photos and a pair of essays by Jeremy Kasten and Mark Altman.
This one's for the genre freaks only, or those who saw the flick on the Sci-Fi Network, kinda dug it, and were annoyed at how all the gore was snipped out. It's cheap, it's cheesy, it's periodically very silly, but it's also got some solid splatter and just enough horror highlights to warrant a mild recommendation.
Full disclosure: All Souls Day is the first movie produced under the CFQ Films banner, which is a branch of Cinefantastique Magazine. Femme Fatales Magazine is also related to CFQ, and since I've written a few articles for FF, I thought it was only right to mention the connection. I've never met, communicated with, or received anything from Mr. Kasten or Mr. Altman, so trust me when I say this review represents my honest opinion. I'd bail on the magazine gig before I'd bullshit my readers.