2007 - 90m.
Army of the Dead is yet another case of the box art being better than everything else about the movie (I mean, c'mon, there's a skeleton holding a shotgun!). However, unlike a lot of these types, it isn't a complete wash as there are a few bright points in amongst all the low-budget shenanigans. It starts off decently in our opening scene where some conquistadors in the 1500s are hunting down a cache of gold in some caves and end up being slaughtered by the undead skeletons that are guarding it. As staged by director Joseph Contegiacomo using shadows cast on a wall and a few blood spatters it's actually pretty cool.
Fast forward to modern day and John (Ross Kelly), his girlfriend Amy (Stephanie Marchese) and a group of friends are off in the desert for the weekend to celebrate his birthday by tearing through the sand on some dune buggies, camping, and generally partying the two days away. He's also given a sword as a present in what's some of the most obvious foreshadowing around. Sure, there's a bit of awkwardness and uncomfortable moments due to his ex-girlfriend being there but also along for the trip is his University Professor Vasquez (Miguel Martinez) who is using the weekend as an excuse to pull out a ragged old map and track down the gold.
Soon enough, as the script bounces between John tooling around the desert while getting into various fights with Amy and Vasquez sneaking away along with the mercenaries he's hired to assist him(!), everyone finds their lives in jeopardy when the skeletal remains of our conquistadors rise up and start killing them all off using swords and bows. This gives us a massacre scene of our mercs, a siege scene that's more silly than exciting, a decent unintentional chuckle when a flaming arrow pegs a gas can and explodes, and a whole bunch of CGI (and the suspect effects that come with it) infused action in the finale.
In the lead Kelly is a pretty ho-hum hero but he's much better than Vic Browder who stinks the place up as our head mercenary. Marchese gets to spend most of the movie being bitchy and looking miserable and, considering how much I disliked her, I guess she pulls it off okay. Martinez gets to go way over-the-top as our Professor, especially when he gets possessed and leads our skeleton army on their killing spree. If I had to pick the best person here I'd have to go with Mike Hatfield as our old tour guide Fred who takes finding a bloodied up pick-up in stride and spends a lot of time complaining about the "city folk". Kelly and Martinez would co-star a few years later in a slasher flick called Klown Kamp Massacre - judging from the Slumber Party Massacre riffing artwork and generally dumb premise, I'm pretty sure I'll not be watching it.
Apart from Army of Darkness and Jason and the Argonauts there are really not enough killer skeletons out there. It's too bad that Army of the Dead isn't likely to change that. I have to admit that, as CG created baddies go, the skeletons actually aren't that bad - they look a little cheap, and there's a pretty lame throat slitting with CG blood, but when compared to other modern flicks of this budget range they could've been much, much worse. It's not a very memorable 90 minutes but at least there's a bit more ambition here than expected making me want to like it more than I actually did. (Chris Hartley, 5/14/14)
Directed By: Joseph Contegiacomo.
Written By: Tom Woosley, Michael Ciccolini.
Starring: Ross Kelly, Stephanie Marchese, Miguel Martinez, Mike Hatfield.