I started watching Art of the Dead on a Wednesday morning. Within the first minute, Richard Grieco filled my screen and nostalgia filled me. He just purchased a new painting of a menacing lion and he wants his family to see it. Like a good story, the movie has you asking questions right away, and something very odd is happening. By the time five minutes have passed, you’ll either be saying, “What the fu…,” you’ll be engrossed, or you’ll be giggling. I sort of went through all three at that point.
Art of the Dead is a cranium contorting, colorful, stomach-churningly gory, interesting, fun film. Is it a good film? Ummmm…. You’ll probably wonder what kind of horny-goat-weed-laced LSD the writers and filmmakers were on at certain parts. There are references to other films and classic literature (whether intentional or not), like Rosemary’s Baby. Some of the acting is great! Some of it is B-movie-tastic. Some of it is high school drama club. While it may feel like a serious film—and it certainly feels like it’s being done seriously—so much of it is ridiculous. There are monsters (with practical effects!). There are bloody ax-mutilations. There is total insanity. There are paintings by Clint Carney (that look like they should be on the cover of a Cemetery Dance and Fangoria-hybrid magazine). Some of the scenes work very hard to almost be his paintings come to life which was quite enjoyable.
The overall plot is about paintings that change or affect the perspective of those who are viewing them. It is a pretty unique premise that I don’t want to spoil by going into too much detail. People die. Monsters happen.
The director, Rolfe Kanefsky, might not be a household name in your world, but it’s one I’ve known for a long time. As a young high school student in the early ’90s, I ran across a VHS called There’s Nothing Out There which quickly became a favorite. It is a spoof of horror films, and it is quite fun. Mr. Kanefsky wrote and directed it. A lot of the rest of his catalog is erotica, some teen comedies, and a horror film splashed in here and there including Nightmare Man (one of the “8 Films to Die For” in 2007’s After Dark Horrorfest) and The Black Room (starring Dominique Swain and Natasha Henstridge).
Warning: This paragraph is semi-spoilery: Art of the Dead is advertised as a movie starring Richard Grieco, Tara Reid, and Jessica Morris via its cover art. Jessica Morris is a main character, but Tara Reid and Richard Grieco do no have much screen time at all (5 to 10 minutes each). I know that they are the “star-power,” but don’t watch this just for them.
I was hoping to get a copy of the actual DVD for my review, but what I received was a digital screener with a distracting “Promotional Use Only” burned into the screen every few minutes. So, I can’t review the special features which include Deleted Scenes and a Commentary track featuring Rolfe Kanefsky, Nicholas George, Alex Rinehart (who is excellent in this), Cynthia Strahan, and Clint Carney. It is in 5.1 Dolby Digital with a 2:35.1 aspect ratio. Suggested Retail Price is $14.99 for the DVD, which is now available.
Art of the Dead is a satisfying movie. It didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth like some lower-budget horror films do. That is always one of my biggest worries when I jump into a film like this. This film was fun, and it made me smile, cringe, say “ewww, gross,” and it ended well. Yes, I also rolled my eyes a few times. It isn’t rated, but I wouldn’t show it to kids (violence, weirdness, and nudity). Give it a try!