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Anchor Bay's January '06 Releases

All Souls Day (July 7/05)

While All Souls Day should be commended for trying something different with the well-worn zombie genre, the film's positives are ultimately undone by some seriously uneven pacing and a screenplay that places far more emphasis on backstory than necessary. In terms of the latter, the opening half hour features two prologues (!) that attempt to explain how a small Mexican town became overrun with zombies - although since certain bits of key information aren't divulged until late in the film, both sequences come off as needless and dull. The film's midsection, revolving around a quartet of friends that must contend with said town's undead menace, is a considerable improvement over the sluggish first act, and successfully delivers the sort of bloody hijinks that one expects out of a zombie flick. But screenwriter Mark A. Altman insists on returning to that tedious backstory - involving the efforts of a vicious crime lord (played by Danny Trejo) to achieve everlasting life - and compounds it by including the cryptic shenanigans of the hotel's hostess (Laura Harring). Such elements come off as superfluous and distracting, and one can't help but wish Altman would've just focused on the walking dead/randy teens fracas.

out of

Ghost in the Machine (January 13/06)

Ghost in the Machine is an exceedingly silly and surprisingly tedious horror flick revolving around a recently-deceased serial killer who finds that his consciousness has been uploaded into a computer mainframe. Now able to wreak havoc via electricity and phone lines, said murderer sets his sights on single mom Terry Monroe (Karen Allen); after destroying her credit and messing with her bank accounts, he begins knocking off her friends and coworkers via increasingly inventive methods (ie he literally microwaves one guy to death). Though the elaborate nature of some of the film's death sequences provides some entertainment (and can't help but remind one of the Final Destination series), there's little here worth recommending - particularly in terms of plausibility, which goes right out the window early on. That the murderer is able to use his newfound, Lawnmower Man-esque situation to access computer accounts basically makes sense, but even the screenwriters would be hard-pressed to explain his ability to manipulate electrical items such as hand dryers and dishwashers. Exacerbating matters is a reliance on elements that likely came off as cutting-edge back in '93 but now just lend the film a thoroughly dated feel (the virtual-reality sequence is easily the best example of this). The anti-climactic finale, consisting almost entirely of gobbledygook and bad computer effects, cements Ghost in the Machine's status as an irrelevant and utterly forgettable piece of work.

out of

My Big Fat Independent Movie (January 13/06)

Despite the best intentions of all involved to turn My Big Fat Independent Movie into the next Airplane! or Naked Gun, the film instead comes off as a subpar spoof effort along the lines of Scary Movie or Spy Hard. One could easily point to the inferior performances, low-rent production values, and flimsy storyline as the cause of the movie's speedy downfall, but it'd be a lot easier (and accurate) to place the lion's share of the blame on the desperately unfunny screenplay. Writers Chris Gore and Adam Schwartz pack their script with references to various well-known independent films, including Pulp Fiction, The Good Girl, and (naturally) My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but fail to elicit laughs from their inclusion; instead of going for a witty, satirical sort of vibe, the two emphasize low-brow jokes and extremely obvious attempts at parody (ie the glowing item inside the Pulp Fiction briefcase turns out to be...a smoked meat sandwich). Even the "celebrity" cameos by folks like Bob Odenkirk and Clint Howard fall flat, although one can't help but admire Project Greenlight winner Pete Jones' self-deprecating appearance. It's easy enough to see what the filmmakers were attempting to do with My Big Fat Independent Movie - this is a genre that could stand to be taken down a peg or two - but the unrelentingly amateurish atmosphere ultimately transforms the film into a tedious mess.

out of

About the DVDs: Anchor Bay Entertainment presents each of these titles with crisp letterboxed transfers, and while Ghost in the Machine's supplemental materials are limited to a trailer and a commercial, All Souls Day and My Big Fat Independent Movie come equipped with commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.
© David Nusair