Danny Trejo hacks his way through zombies that are a lot hotter than the film.
by Martin Hafer
Rene Perez’s The Burning Dead (originally titled Volcano Zombies) is an extremely low budget effort. And, the title pretty much says it all. So, I knew going into this film that I wouldn’t be seeing Masterpiece Theatre or Jane Austin!! Yup…it has precisely what you’d expect of this sort of fare–a lot of cheesy special-effects and makeup with some occasionally broad acting tossed in. It’s clearly for folks who like horror and don’t mind that it’s of the bargain basement variety! Now, I’m not saying the film is 100% bad … just mostly so.
The Burning Dead opens on an American-Indian played by the ubiquitous Danny Trejo, who’s telling some kids a story–and then the actual plot begins. I say ‘ubiquitous’ because Trejo was in 17 different productions last year and is slated, so far, to be in a further 21. In fact, while this tough-looking guy didn’t begin acting until he was almost 40, he so far has nearly 300 credits!! So did it surprise me that this Mexican-American actor was playing a Cherokee? Nah…I think he’d appear in the lead of Cinderella if they offered it to him! He hammed it up a bit during his small portion in the film, though I always enjoy seeing him…even in schlocky films like this one. To paraphrase Liberace–you might laugh…but Trejo is probably laughing himself all the way to the bank!
Trejo’s story is about zombies who are vaporized during the 1840s. And, oddly, when the same volcano becomes active again today, these zombies are reconstituted by the evil volcano spirits and they set about doing what zombies do best–slowly chasing after folk who seem to inexplicably fall down and get devoured. None of this is especially inspired–particularly in light of the hundred bazillion zombie TV shows and movies over the last decade that have been churned out at an alarming, and seemingly unstoppable rate. Here is the real problem though–it was bad but not bad or cheesy enough to be a film for a bad film junkie who wants to laugh at the unfolding disaster of poor filmmaking. Additionally, had the film not taken itself so seriously and been more like some of Sam Raimi’s or George Romero’s zombie affairs, it might just have worked. Sadly, though, there just isn’t enough to recommend it.
However, despite all my reservations about The Burning Dead, I am giving it a special award for ‘The Most Ludicrous Nude Scene of the Past Decade.’ As the volcano is belching smoke and getting ready to blow, an insane but very shapely lady appears near the crater with her camera and starts to take some candid topless selfies using the volcano as a backdrop!! Rarely have I ever seen a more contrived and asinine way to insert a bit of nudity into a movie!
Available March 3rd, 2015 via digital and VOD, and April 7th on DVD through Uncork’d Entertainment.