Alive or Dead
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // $26.98 // June 17, 2008
Review by Justin Felix | posted June 23, 2008
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The Movie:

As I watched Alive or Dead, I was sipping a lime green tea - flavored Snapple. They're on sale this week at the local supermarket. For those of you who don't drink Snapple, each bottle's top has an interesting fact printed on it. This Snapple's cap had "Real Fact #121." "The only bird that can swim but not fly," it read, "is the penguin."

Penguins can swim but they can't fly - and they're the only type of bird for which this is true. That fact was interesting.

Alive or Dead, on the other hand, is one hell of a dumb and boring movie.

I try to give low budget filmmakers the benefit of the doubt as long as they seem to be trying something that is in the least bit compelling. And to give credit, the kernel of the plot to this movie has some potential: a young woman comes upon a school bus idled on the side of the road with the words "Help Me" scrawled in blood on one of the windows. It's a chilling scenario. Too bad it's let down by the cast and crew of this film.

Maria (played ineptly by Ann Henson) is the name of the young woman here. She's engaging in phone sex with her boyfriend as she drives on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Why she's out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night isn't clear, but her cell phone warns of a low battery - which conveniently explains why our heroine won't be able to call for help at the start of the film. In any case, Maria comes upon the school bus and somehow manages to see the "Help Me" message scrawled on one bus window at night from a bit of a distance. She stops, blowing out two of her tires from some carefully placed nails. Armed with a small flashlight, she checks out the school bus. Inside, she meets a young teenager named Sarah (played by the even more inept Angelica May), who is chained inside. There's also some gore, some dead bodies, and a crazy guy who talks to himself. The crazy guy takes off in the bus, not knowing Maria is inside.

Now, what does Maria, our plucky heroine do? She's stuck in a bus driven by a madman. Several dead bodies and blood surround her. And, young Sarah is still chained and alert. Well, Maria apparently decides to take a nap. Jamie Lee Curtis she isn't.

Anyway, hours later, Maria awakens and the bus arrives at its destination: a weird castle-like house in the middle of nowhere. But wait! One of the madman's victims isn't dead! This guy, Frank, takes out the madman. So, now our trio decides to walk around the house.

And they walk around, checking things out.

And they walk around some more, checking things out.

Finally, Maria says to Sarah "Why don't we check out the roof." "Okay," Sarah replies.

And sure enough, they check out the roof.

Well, Frank is a little nuts, and he ends up menacing our two intrepid lead characters. So too does a cannibal kid and this old guy in a monk's robe (please don't ask, I'm not sure how much longer I can take writing about this dud).

There are so many scenes in this movie that just make you shake your head. Want some examples? In one smackdown, Maria grabs a wooden cooking fork and Frank grabs a dinner plate, and they start a brief fencing routine with these items. At one point during their ordeal, Maria turns to Sarah and asks "so, do you want to go clubbin' some time?" There's also a scene where Sarah casually strolls away from the cannibal kid that she's supposedly terrified of.

The script is bad, the acting is bad, and scenes go on and on and on.

That's enough - I still have four more categories in the standard DVD Talk review template to go.

Save the money you'd spend on renting Alive or Dead and buy some Snapples instead. They're on sale this week, after all, and whatever facts you find under the lids will entertain you far more than this turkey.



Lionsgate advertises Alive or Dead as a "16x9 Widescreen 1.78:1 DVD Screen Format" on the back of the cover art. The distributor has been inconsistent in its video quality of late, with a number of titles presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. But, here the image is anamorphic and doesn't look too shabby at that. The image seems a little soft and the colors muted, but for a film of obvious low budget, it's not bad-looking.


Two audio options are available on this DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. The 5.1 track appears to be the default. Dialogue is inconsistently presented, but otherwise, it's serviceable. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish, as are English closed captions.


Trailers automatically play before the menu for Sight, Frontier(s), The Eye 3, Saw IV, The Descent, and The Devil's Rejects. Title cards precede each trailer, so you can fast forward to the next if you've seen the one about to play. These trailers can also be accessed through an Also from Lionsgate link in the Special Features sub-menu.

There's a feature-length audio commentary with Stephen Goetsch (writer and director), Paul Koslo (producer), and L. Flint Esquerra (actor). As is often the case with contemporary film commentaries, the filmmakers are very self-congratulatory, admiring the "great" and "excellent" acting, etc. It's a surreal experience, in this case. {Although, admittedly, they do poke fun at the goings-on some too.}

And, in case you're a real glutton for punishment, a 14 minute Behind the Scenes featurette is included.

Final Thoughts:

Even die-hard horror and slasher film fans will likely diagnose Alive or Dead as dead on arrival. Skip it.


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