Army Of The Dead (2008)

Army of the Dead is far too serious. If played for laughs it could’ve been genuinely enjoyable and utterly daft, but instead it’s simply appallingly made and incredibly dull. Hampered by a diabolical script, sub-standard acting and hilariously bad CGI, Army of the Dead is not a good film.

Three couples and an ugly bearded guy are embarking on a desert-racing holiday, led by an old bloke and his young partner. The desert they happen to be racing in has a long, dark history. In 1590, Spanish conquistador Coronado dispatched a division of one thousand men to find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. Those men were never seen again… because some skeletons killed them. These evil boney murderers are the cursed remnants of a lost culture, reanimated to murder anyone who dares to touch the treasure, mirroring the superior likes of Dead Snow and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. So the treasure is cursed – deadly cursed – and guess who nicks a coin?

Led to the doomed desert under false pretences by the ugly bearded guy, the three couples soon find themselves facing a terrifying enemy in the form of hundreds of skeleton warriors, armed and angry and clearly created by someone using a 1995 Spectrum with a broken graphics card. The copy n’ pasted skeletons are embarrassingly poor.

Army of the Dead should have been made with a tongue jammed firmly in its cheek. It may have made it bearable to watch, perhaps even very likeable, but tragically the lack of humour – ANY sense of humour – means it’s humiliatingly bad.

The only inkling the creators had a teaspoon of humour in their blood is during the end credits (yep) when after “No animals were harmed during the making of this film” they sneakily add “But now we’re harming them like there’s no tomorrow”. It’s a shame this cheeky sense of humour wasn’t used in the film itself, as it severely needs it. If you’re incredibly drunk and with friends it’s a good film to laugh at and deride, but it’s impossible to take seriously otherwise.

The script is horrendous. It is gratingly functional and drips with a thousand sweaty clichés. The characters are all kinds of stupid – using fire as their primary weapon against skeletal warriors – and the ending is so mind-numbingly stupid and vastly random that it truly angers. This scripting-failure is of no surprise, however, considering it’s co-written by a newbie writer (Michael Ciccolini) and a man (Tom Woosley) whose C.V. boasts writing two abysmal saber-toothed tiger films and being an office production assistant on Drag Me to Hell. There are the occasional nice moments – fist through the stomach, rock in the face – but even these are laughably created.

Yet it’s not just the script that is achingly terrible – the acting is also shocking, especially from its lead actors. Ross Kelly and Stefani Marchesi are spectacularly rubbish as John and Amy Barnes, who handsome their way through the bastardly-poor script. Awkward Chris Pine-a-alike Ross Kelly seems entirely unsure who he is or why he’s there, and Marchesi flounces through the film without personality. Yet there is very little of note here – one of the three couples barely even exists, simply fodder for the evil skeletons of doom. Only Mike Hatfield survives without too much damage, as the desert-racing expert who seems genuinely savvy and containing a semblance of a personality.

Luckily the cinematography is decent, despite being obviously green-screen at times, and visually interesting despite the direction bumbling along perfunctorily. Having always worked on visual effects you can’t be hugely surprised Joseph Conti’s direction is uninspiring, but you’d expect him to produce something better than the hilariously crud explosions, blood splatters and gurning skeletons we end up with!

Army of the Dead is dull. It merely happens, and poorly. The acting is especially terrible, the script utterly bland and the visual effects are an embarrassment to everyone. There are reasonable moments throughout, but nothing excels. The UK tagline reads “Never trust a skeleton with a machine gun”, but that’s as funny as it gets. Humourless and boring… unless you’re incredibly drunk.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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