Army of the Dead (2008)

Skeletons defend an ancient treasure in a decently made if highly unoriginal DTV horror. Kaleidoscope UK R0 DVD.

The Film

A group of young Americans are racing across a remote desert area of northern Mexico celebrating John's birthday. One of their group is Professor Gordon Vasquez who has other motivation for being in this area - he believes he knows the location of an ancient gold hoarde kept by the Anasazi tribe hundreds of years ago, but which many explorers have died trying to find. Splitting off from the group he meets up with a team of mercenaries and they enter an ancient cave system, but find themselves under attack from resurrected skeleton warriors...

Co-written by Tom Woosley (behind another CGI-fest DTV horror Attack of the Sabretooth (2005)), Army of the Dead has a very unassuming and uninspired plot, comprised almost entirely of genre cliché - from the group of young American adventurers a long way from home, to the generic mercenaries brought in (for no discernable reason) to help with locating the treasure and an utterly unnecessary love triangle subplot that seems to have been shoehorned in for some reason (certainly not to add any gratuitous sex - this film eschews that completely).

However, Woosley's script does manage to flow together quite neatly, the pacing is always decent and despite early expectations, the main characters are not the usual annoying sorts who seem to inhabit most of these genre films. What is most surprising though is that despite the use of skeleton enemies, the film is content to play its storyline straight, without the comedy that fans of Army of Darkness (1992) might have expected from such a project. Indeed no reference is made in the script to the enemies being skeletal and the climactic discovery of a way to kill them seems to make little sense against such creatures - it almost seems like the idea to have the enemies as skeletons rather than more zombie-like creatures was made after live-action filming was completed.

Director Joseph Conti usually works on visual effects - with credits on films like Men in Black (1997) and Army of the Dead certainly uses plenty of CGI during the skeleton scenes - unfortunately without a big Hollywood budget behind him, Conti's skeletons look very poor and there is gross overuse of very unconvincing CGI blood. Aside from the effects, the film is helmed in a straight forward if rather uninspired way - fortunately the later night time scenes are well lit and not lost in the murk like many similar productions.

There are no familiar names in the cast, but like the production as a whole, the acting on display is enough to get the job done and better than in many DTV horrors.

Unfortunately, Army of Darkness is likely to prove disappointing to most viewers - not because it is not a great film, anyone who expects top quality from a bargain bin horror film about warrior skeletons is surely deluded, but because it neither plays up the comic aspects of the skeletons nor is it ineptly made enough to earn the intangible 'bad movie' moniker, instead it is a reasonably well made film crippled by cheap CGI and a completely generic script.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one of note
Directed by anyone interesting? Joseph Conti - usually working on visual effects with credits on major Hollywood films including Black Hawk Down (2001), he did also direct Sci-Fi channel movie Bugs (2003).
Any gore or violence ? Lots of blood (mostly poor CGI effects) but no real gore.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Hardcore DTV fans may enjoy this, but there are many better (or worse) to seek out first.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
A fine looking transfer for this digitally shot film.
Audio English stereo - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras None.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Available in the US with behind the scenes footage extra.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 3rd November 2012.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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