Left for Dead – DVD Review

leftfordead
Available at Amazon.com

It’s not often that you see the horror and western genres blended together. Before watching Left for Dead I had never seen a movie attempt such a feat. Of course, just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

The set-up for Left for Dead, as ham-handedly laid out via on-screen text, is that it is the year 1880. Fifteen years ago, a whore (not my term; it’s the only one used in the movie) was having an affair with the preacher of Amnesty. After getting his mistress pregnant, the preacher ended things. The whore’s perfectly rational response was to gather all the other whores and then get them to help her kill every man, woman and child in the town. The preacher, named Mobius, then gave his soul to Lucifer so that he might get revenge. Ever since he has been living in the ghost town of Amnesty, waiting for revenge.

In the movie’s present day (1880), a mysterious woman, Clementine Templeton, comes across the former whores’ settlement (it is implied that these women founded their own town, but it looks more like a camp than a town) while on the trail of a man that impregnated a woman and abandoned her. The man, Blake, did the same thing to Mary’s daughter so the former whores team up with Clem to track down Blake. And it just so happens that their trail leads straight to the town of Amnesty.

As the film is set in Mexico, the characters have a habit of switching back and forth between Spanish and English. As a result, the movie has a fair amount of subtitle use. The subtitles are fine most of the time, but there are a couple of minor issues. In one of the movie’s more dramatic scenes, the word “quite” is used in place of “quiet.” It’s a pretty common subtitling mistake, but it really throws you out of the movie and should have been picked up on before the movie was released.

The second subtitle issue is probably due to the fact the movie was shot in Argentina with an Argentinian cast and crew (none of whom speak English as their first language). The actor who plays Blake, Javier De la Vega, (not actually Argentinian, but from Spain) has a bit stronger accent than the rest of the cast. As a result, a fair number of his English lines are subtitled. The thing is, even though he does have an accent, I never had trouble understanding what he was saying so the subtitling seemed unnecessary and silly.

The killings by the whores don’t really make sense. I’m sure Mary Black wasn’t the first whore to ever have a man abandon her, it hardly seems like it would be sufficient incentive for not only Mary, but all the other women, to go on a killing spree. From what we see of them fifteen years later, they do seem a bit on the ruthless side, but it’s hard to buy them as mass-murders.

There are a few scenes depicting the original murders, but they are quite brief and come off poorly (Mobius, in particular, is way over the top in these scenes). In the director’s commentary, Albert Pyun mentions they had a lot of trouble with the opening, showing multiple versions to test audiences on different occasions. I suspect that the original plan was to start the movie with the town being wiped out. But since those scenes sucked, they used a text opening instead and then showed a compressed version of the scenes via flashback much later on.

Even though his backstory doesn’t quite work, Mobius is a pretty fun slasher villain. I think we’re supposed to root for him when he’s going after the women who wiped out Amnesty, but the women don’t seem evil enough for the audience to root for their deaths. Still, Mobius really carries the film.

On the other hand, Mobius’ vulnerabilities are rather unusual. He’s a ghost and he can do the whole disappear and re-appear at will thing, but when he is manifest, he can be shot (though his wounds heal almost instantly and cause little to no pain) and he even has a physical vulnerability, foretold in legend. It probably would have been best to have him re-animated in immortal, yet physical, form. He could retain his ability to heal almost instantly and it would make a lot more sense than a ghost being hit with all manner of physical items.

There are lots of problems with Left for Dead. The set up is never quite believable and there are a number of logical inconsistencies. This is a low budget slasher film though, and on that level it is an entertaining way to spend 87 minutes.

The video is presented in 2.35:1. The color has been shifted so the film kind of looks a bit like a sepia photograph; the effect really helps the western feel of the movie. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. As with the video, the score adds a lot to the feel of the movie.

Trailers – Trailers are included for Wristcutters: A Love Story, Horrorfest ’07, Killer Pad, When Evil Calls, and Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound.

Director’s Commentary – Albert Pyun does a solo-commentary that is pretty informative. Pyun only uses the on-screen action as the occasional reference point as he talks about everything from using Youtube to cast the film to his thoughts on working with big-name and relatively unknown actors. For a solo commentary, this one is refreshingly devoid of dead air.

I really liked Left for Dead. It tried to do something a little different by mixing the horror and western genres, and it’s a fun little slasher film. There are quite a few problems, but it is easy to overlook those problems and simply enjoy the movie. There aren’t a lot of special features here, but honestly it’s not the kind of movie where you want to watch hours and hours of behind-the-scenes footage; even the most avid fan is likely to be satisfied with just the director’s commentary.

If you aren’t a fan of slasher movies, Left for Dead isn’t about to change your mind. If you do enjoy the genre though, this is one worth checking out.

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Loins Gate presents Left for Dead. Directed by: Albert Pyun. Starring: Victoria Maurette, Javier De La Vega, Andres Bagg. Running time: 87 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: March 4, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.