Reviewed by

Christopher Armsted

One advantage that Wilmer Valderrama has with me that he unfortunately doesn’t have with most of America is that I’ve never watched ‘That 70’s show’ and am only aware that he played the character of Fez on that show from a commercial or two I might have seen while watching ‘The Simpsons’. So at least with me watching, dude can be in any movie he wants to be in, and play any role he desires to play and know, that at least in one small house in Detroit, there is a guy who isn’t thinking ‘What the hell is Fez doing trying to act’. This doesn’t mean that Mr. Valderrama’s new film ‘The Dead One’ is any good, it just means that my opinion of it isn’t influenced by the ghost of Fez.

We meet Diego as a child while he and some of his Mexican brothers are vying for entrance into the United States. An old man guides young Diego away from the pack and introduces him to some crazy Aztec voodoo, slices the boys hand and gives him a prophecy that one day he will have to fulfill. Now a twenty one year old theology student, Diego (Valderrama) is enjoying life with the love his life Maria (Angie Cepeda), despite the disapproving glare of Maria’s Jesuit uncle Padre Somera (Tony Amendola), and he also passes the time with fellow theology student and best friend Zak the atheist (Joel Moore). Diego is a little concerned as this particular day begins as some of the signs he was told about as a child are beginning to occur, but he passes them off as silly coincidences and prepares himself for the Dia De Los Muretos celebration where he is dressed as The Dead One, which basically consist of a mariachi costume and skull paint. On his way to the party the lovely Maria has a terrible dream and immediately begins to pray for the boyfriend who crashes his car into a tree.

When Diego wakes up from the accident things are a bit weird as people are running from his freaky looking ass screaming. We will be told that since the accident a year

has passed and this dang skull mask paint has fused itself to his face. Aparicio (Tony Plana), the kindly caretaker at the seminary, attempts to help poor Diego and even witnesses him perform some bona fide miracles, but Diego fears that he was resurrected for one cause only, and this is to kill and avenge the destruction of his Aztec people hundreds of years ago. But when it is declared to him that his next victim must be his true love Maria, Diego is having none of this as now a battle between his destiny and his desire rages within, controlled a mysterious external force attempting to push him to the side of murder.

Though we admire the effort in ‘The Dead One’ the execution unfortunately fell somewhat flat. The film is based on the comic ‘El Muerto’ by Javier Hernandez and I will assume that comic is more entertaining than the film ultimately was. The problem being that writer / director Brian Cox couldn’t decide on what elements of the comic to focus on and as such it seems he gave short shrift to almost all of the elements of the comic. I will assume that budgetary constraints kept a lot of the action to a minimum, but with knowledge of that, perhaps more time should have been spent on building up the characters of Diego and strengthening his relationship with Maria and building up more of the mythology of the Dead One. As it is presented to us, a lot of the rich history of the Aztecs and the El Muerto character in general is glossed over, and we never truly understand or get involved into the why of the character. The text in the beginning was a start but it wasn’t nearly enough. So in the absence of a solid narrative, what the movie should have relied on was mindless action which does often serve the purpose of keeping our minds off of a story that is lacking. See Die Hard 4.0 as a real world example of this. Obviously the producers of ‘The Dead One’ are working with the ‘Die Hard’ lunch per diem as a budget so we never really got an opportunity to see what El Mureto is capable of and what powers he possessed. Valerrama was certainly game in the role, he just wasn’t given enough to work with to pull it off satisfactorily.

Then there was Billy Drago in drag. Seeing Billy Drago period in a movie lets you know that he’s up to no good. Billy Drago dressed up like an old woman? So much for that mystery because he’s REALLY up to no good.

Again, there is no joy in crapping on this flick because it was obvious that the effort and enthusiasm to make an exciting and unique picture where there, but it just didn’t come together. I hope that ‘The Dead One’ succeeds despite the failings of this freshman effort in the hopes that the story can be expanded upon, and hopefully improve with a more focused narrative and a slightly larger budget.

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