Tag Archives: Tony plana

B Movie Glory: El Muerto aka The Dead One

So imagine The Crow but like… based around Aztec/Day of the dead style mythology and starring Fez from That 70’s Show as a young man brought back from the dead as a supernatural zombie. Sounds to random to actually exist, right? Well it’s out there, it’s called The Dead One in some regions and El Muerto in others and… it’s something. I can’t quite say that as a compliment because it’s so goddamn low budget and cheesy, but I will say that a valiant effort is made, there’s a lot of heart behind it, plus some terrific actors having fun too.

Unfortunately Wilmer Valderrama will forever and always be known as Fez no matter what else he does and will never live that character down, but he does his best to be dark, smouldering and edgy here as Diego De La Muerte, who is killed in a car crash one night and resurrected as a badass monster with face paint and superpowers by the Mayan god of death. He’s marked as a boy in an opening flashback by a spooky Old Indian shaman (the great Billy Drago, who passed a few days ago) but what he doesn’t read in the fine print is that the God basically owns his soul and commands his every move once he’s undead. This leads to a fight for freedom and the love of his life (Angie Cepeda) who he left behind.

Soon the God manifests in reality as a creepy old witch type thing (again played by Drago, really outdoing himself with the scenery chewing here, as he was always famous for) and he has to fight the thing as well as evade a suspicious county Sheriff played by the legendary Michael Parks, who is also no longer with us. Other appearances are noted from Tony Plana as a priest, Joel David Moore’s as his best friend and the iconic Maria Conchita Alonso.

Man I really want to recommend this because I’m a lot more generous than most with this type of fare but I can’t because it’s essentially a pretty fucking awful film, not gonna lie. Shoddy special effects, cheesy dialogue, cheap looking cinematography, this one has it all. But hey, if you give it a go you’ll always be able to say that you saw a movie where Fez from That 70’s Show plays an Aztec zombie, so there’s that. Plus the thing is kinda fun in its own lovable horror flick way. It’s based on some cult comic series which I’ve never read but if anyone has, let me know how this holds up against the source material.

-Nate Hill

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Gregory Hoblit’s Primal Fear

Gregory Hoblit’s Primal Fear does a fine job of using opaque marketing to conceal it’s delicious, devilish secrets, a tactic that many films recklessly abandon and ruin far too much in trailers or posters. This is a careful exercise in serpentine plotting. Is it courtroom drama? Supernatural shocker? Psychological thriller? Pot-boiling procedural intrigue? Check it out and be as floored as audiences were for the first time back then. Richard Gere holds his end well as a legendary hotshot defence attorney in Chicago, one with a tarnished reputation and a penchant for defending unscrupulous clients. A weird case comes his way in the form of mentally challenged alter boy Edward Norton, accused of murdering someone high up in the clergy and causing a political hailstorm throughout the city. This is one of those thrillers that does genuinely keep you guessing, until literally the final frame, using human interaction and intimate performances to instigate reactions, rather than a barrage of special effects or manufactured narrative gimmicks. I’m being deliberately vague because this is the one film you don’t want spoiled for you ahead of time, it’s that cool. This was, I believe, the role that put Norton on the map, and he’s a gale force of electric energy, giving everyone else onscreen a huge run for their money. It’s fun watching Gere, an assured and confident pillar of law and order, slowly unravel and find himself at the mercy of malicious curveballs he doesn’t even see coming until they’ve hit. The cast is dynamite, with rockin’ turns from fiery John Mahoney as the worst mayor in Chicago’s history, Laura Linney as Gere’s hot tempered rival, Terry O’ Quinn, Alfre Woodward, Andre Braugher, Jon Seda, Frances McDormand, Maura Tierney, Joe Spano, Tony Plana and a slick Steven Bauer as a mob don with ties to Gere. This has all the trappings of a big, overblown thriller drawn from broad strokes, but Hoblit wisely brings it in in places, giving us a nuthouse claustrophobic shivers to go along with the big league intrigue. One of the best thrillers of the 90’s, and one that should get mentioned more often. I’ll also say it has to have one of the coolest DVD special edition covers ever, it’s always nice to see extra effort put into that arena.

-Nate Hill