Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Alive or Dead
Directed by Stephen Goetsch
Written by Stephen Goetsch
Starring Ann Henson, Angelica Modana, L. Flint Esquerra, Gretchen Busenitz
Produced by Paul Koslo
There are only so many things I can say about Alive or Dead. The upshot is that only a few of them require expletives. The downshot, meanwhile, is that few of them would ever get put on a video box.
The plot of Alive or Dead doesn’t really help the position at all. Basically, some random chick stumbles across an abandoned school bus. This alone doesn’t mean very much until she notices the hand-lettered “help me” sign written across the back window. Did I mention it’s dark and in the middle of the desert? So all these wonderful events combine to form a horrible picture—and as our random chick gets on the bus and discovers what happened, the picture only gets worse as the bus drives away, with her on it. Now, she’s got to save who she can, fend off the various unpleasant types she’ll run into after the bus finally stops, and discover a whole lot of weird stuff along the way.
Alive or Dead starts off with some of the worst phone sex I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through. Seriously, it’s like watching a regular sex scene with your parents in the room. It’s embarrassing just to sit through it. It’s so spectacularly inept.
And when the main characters actually describe the opening minutes as “That’s like the beginning of every shitty horror flick I’ve ever seen.”, all I could do was laugh uproariously and try desperately not to choke on my muffin. For some reason I covered this one in the morning. But anyway.
Because, yes, this plotline is unnecessarily familiar. Yes, this HAS been used unto death and beyond. Which forces me to wonder why they even bothered using it in the first place. I mean, come on, surely there’s any of a hundred better concepts to use—why this miserable rehash that’s been done so many times before that even your own script makes fun of it?
The preposterousness level only continued to climb throughout as our killer took the bus ot what amounts to a castle in the desert. No, seriously. A castle. In the desert. Bars on the windows, turrets, real old-world stone construction. A proposition that, once again, even the movie itself will make fun of. What, do they think they have some kind of a license on stupidity just as long as they openly mock it themselves?
Why, why, so much why? Well, there’s not a whole lot of reason running behind this sucker’s eyes, but they’re going to do something at least somewhat interesting at about the middle of the movie. I won’t say what, that’ll spoiler like no tomorrow, but I’ll admit that it’s actually a pretty good surprise. In fact, it’s surprise enough to make me revise my estimation of this sucker upward a bit.
The ending will include a couple of very nicely done surprises.
The special features will include English and Spanish subtitles, audio options, an audio commentary track, a making-of featurette and trailers for Sight, Frontier(s), Saw IV, The Descent and The Devil’s Rejects.
All in all, Alive or Dead was a pretty fair idea that just took way too long and made too many mistakes to execute properly. Too unique to call bad and somehow too derivative to call good, a single rental here will not go to waste if you need something new to watch.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org