El Muerto (2007) mini review

based on a comic

Don't judge a movie by it's poster. The first time I saw a poster for El Muerto: The Dead One, I thought it might be a rip-off of The Crow. Call me Mr. Open-minded. I did a little research, and saw it wasn't a rip-off at all. Diego de la Muerte dies in a car accident and finds himself in Mictlan, the Aztec realm of the dead. He is sent back as The Chosen One, a minion of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the dead, to bring the end of the world. But will Diego use his powers for evil, or for good?

El Muerto kind of came out of left field and was an interesting surprise. It opens with a good homage to its source material - the opening credits morph between the live film and black and white line drawings, as if the film is lifted directly from the comics. And it continues to develop well - it's a decent story, and the film has good production values. I was expecting the signature look of some independent films - you know when you see a film that has bad lighting, poor camera work, and sloppy editing. I wasn't expecting to see something that had the polished look of a professionally-made, big budget film. It plays out as mostly serious (though nowhere near as dark a film as The Crow), but in the last fight, it seems like it attempts to pick up a bit of the lightness of the comic. That falls a bit flat because it seems wedged in, but it's easily overlooked. As far as the story goes, it does keep pretty close to the comic's origin (incidentally, a digital version of the complete first comic is included on the DVD - a pretty good bonus). As a whole, it's an enjoyable story - I wasn't sure what to expect, so I didn't set the bar too high, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The movie is based on Javier Hernandez's el Muerto, the Aztec Zombie (a mini comic is also packaged with the DVD). It stars Wilmer Valderrama (who I didn't recognize originally from That 70's Show until I looked up his biography), and has a cast that you've seen in bit parts elsewhere, including Joel Moore (Art School Confidential), E.J. Callahan (a bit part in The Tick pilot episode), Tony Amendola (The Dark Avenger, Lois & Clark, a few voices in the Spawn animated series), and Maria Conchita Alonso (who played alongside Valderrama in Stan Lee's The Condor.

See it if you can enjoy a decent comic book movie without expecting Citizen Kane.

Don't see it if you're expecting something more than a decently written, well-acted indie film.


Javier Hernandez said...

Hi Jim

Thanks for the great review! I'm glad to hear that A) You didn't know anything about the movie and comic, and B) You went in with an open mind and were pleasantly surprised.

The CROW comparisions are natural, but like you mentioned, unwarranted. Dead guys were black and white, right? Beetlejuice, Jack Skellington, Crow, etc.

The film was a heck of a lot of fun to make and I'm very happy with having participated so much to the filmmaking and, as you've pointed out, the special features on the DVD.

Me, I'm most looking forward to IRON-MAN this year!

All the best, and have a great 2008.

Javier Hernandez

Jim said...

What an excellent surprise, Javier, to open up my blog and see that you'd left a comment! Thanks for commenting, and I'm glad you liked my review.

Iron Man looks awesome, but the Hellboy sequel might give it a run for its money.

I hope you have a great 2008, too.