Museum of the Dead (2004)
MUSEUM OF THE DEAD
WRITER: Screenplay by Jason Rainwater
DIRECTOR: James Dudelson
STARRING: Nathaniel Arcand as McCloud
Tanya Vidal as Jewel
Vivian Lucas as Lisa
Pepe Pena as Midas
Ryan Barreras as Tolec
Jason Rainwater as Law
Dawn Kain as Russo
Ines Glenn as Bobin
QUICK CUT: With nothing else to do on Halloween, far too many people go and check out the maze-like corridor of the Museum of the Dead and encounter zombies.
Jewel - A kickboxing instructor who only wants a quiet night to relax at home, but gets dragged out to a museum on Halloween night. She's smart, and tough, and has no patience for zombies.
Lisa - Jewel's friend and either not too bright, or very much clueless about other cultures in the most frightening white girl ways. She's easily spooked, but always up for a challenge, however when zombies show up, she'd rather run the other way.
McCloud - A mysterious stranger who also gets stuck in Bobin's maze, but that was always part of his plan. He's there to recover ancient artifacts stolen by the professor and put on display.
Happy happy Halloween, Triskelions! We are back, and this time out I dug out from the unknown graves, this little trick of a treat, Museum of the Dead. If you looked carefully at the credits, you might remember the director from my anniversary event two years ago, where he directed Horror 101 and 102. This movie could go either way, with that pedigree.
So of course I decided to go for the trifecta and revisit his work, and hope I don't end up with another apple with a razor blade in it.
The movie starts setting things up with some shots of someone spreading some ads for the Museum of the Dead event on Halloween, and then we get to meet some characters as they hang out at the gym they work at and getting some juice.
At least we quickly establish one of our leads as teaching kickboxing, so she should be able to give whatever she runs into over the next 90 minutes a decent fight. ...Right?
One of the aforementioned fliers slips out of Jewel's purse, and her very white, very blonde friend grabs it and decides it's a perfect thing for them to do tonight.
Lisa also tries to say "Dios de los Muertos" and completely butchers it and makes me ashamed for the entire white population. Just...no. Don't...don't do that.
It manages to get worse as Lisa calls it a "Spanish version of Halloween" and automatically assumes Jewel knows all about it because she's spanish. Fortunately, she corrects her friend that the day is actually Mexican, AND Jewel is Puerto Rican. Sweet potatoes this girl is like every social justice nightmare.
Despite all the unintentional racism on Lisa's part, she convinces Jewel to come along for the fun, and how much trouble can they get into at a museum?? Oh, it better be a lot.
Jewel heads home and decides she needs to take a power nap to recharge before dealing with the titular Museum of the Dead and her friend all night long. I *swear to the Phoenix* that if this movie's big twist is going the dream route, I am setting shit on fire.
We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, but for now she has a bit of a nightmare with...okay, by any reasonable standards, the digital effects on it are amateurish and things anyone can do in their basement with an ancient computer. But y'know what? I *like* it, because it's different, it's unsettling, and looks weird, even if it IS something a monkey could do.
After Lisa shows up and awakens her friend, they head to the 'museum' which is actually a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Which is about what I'd expect for a once a year event.
We watch a guy drop some coins in an old thing to pay for your laundry, but it actually opens the door to the Warehouse of the Dead. Cheap entry, at least. But before the creepy creaky door can slam shut, a hooded man grabs the door and sneaks inside. Really, creepy probably killer dude? You couldn't afford 50 cents? You cheap bastard.
Jules digs in her purse for quarters and hands her friend the strange coin from earlier. Which Lisa says is Canadian. Now, look at that image I posted back there. That is nowhere near Canadian. Just...just how ignorant IS this Lisa? It hurts my brain.
The movie spends some time with a bunch of new cast members wandering the same stretch of corridor...er, I mean, the VERY ELABORATE MAZE of the museum. Yeah, that set design is lacking, sorry. So, this is gonna be our canon fodder for the rest of the flick. Not that we're really given any *introductions* just lots of people walking around aimlessly through blank halls.
Worst museum ever. Look, if your sets make me long for classic Doctor Who, you are doing something wrong. Especially if you're a movie made in the past 15 years.
Finally, the dude that let the hooded man in behind him finds an exhibit, and it looks like something Mayan or Aztecish, but as he approaches, he gets sucked through a vortex and...lands in the exhibit, I guess.
We're going for another Waxwork vibe here, aren't we?
As he looks around the not-exhibit, he fails to notice the Native warrior sneaking up on him, and it's not long before we have our long overdue first death thanks to a sharp blow to the head.
Then there's this weird scene, yes after that this is a weird scene, of some guy in modern garb shambling around like a zombie, and our first victim laying on the ground, and I'm not sure who killed him now?
Back with our main characters, which I presume they are because they actually have names, Lisa and Jewel get a quick overview of the museum from an unseen loudspeaker. The voice tells them that this is a collection of artifacts by Professor Bobin, and he shows them off once a year.
The movie wanders around our victims some more, until it settles on a couple making out just around the corner from everyone else, because again. This is all the same corridor, and I ain't going to let anyone forget that.
And then all of a sudden ZOMBIE ATTACK. Okay, make up your mind, movie. Are people getting sucked into exhibits and getting killed by them, or are we doing the zombie thing? Either find a way to tie them together, or PICK ONE.
The girls wander the hallway, Lisa gets spooked by wind, we bounce around more of the other guests. I am sensing a pattern here. And having everyone on their own and dying on their own and never seeing anyone else must've made filming fast and easy and cheap.
Our masked mystery man runs into a guy taking pictures, and he finally removes the hood and he is recognised by his friend. And we get a name: McCloud. I WILL NOT DO IT I WILL NOT DO IT.
So...why the mask?
Jimmy and McCloud talk about stealing a skull, and about playing the hero, and I am equally frustrated and intrigued. It's not really giving answers which is frustrating me, but I am intrigued by what it all means. Ever so barely.
We then see more wandering, then another couple shows up just long enough to say two lines. They then wander into the Mexican exhibit and gets sliced and diced by the Indian in the Cupboard.
I've encountered this flaw in storytelling before, and it annoys me. I hate just dropping in random people and killing them two seconds later. You don't give a single shit about them, you don't even SEE the murder in this case, and it is such a lazy, easy way to pad your movie out.
"Well, we need another two minutes, let's grab two more friends and kill them off!" until you have a decent running time. This has nothing to do with the plot, and is a rehash of stuff we've already seen.
Back with the girls, they come across a painting that the Exposition Box tells is a map to the maze of hell, and asks which path will they choose? The art depicts several different options of demises, none of which we've seen yet.
Now see, THIS they could run with. If they're gonna drop in the occasional random death to pad things out, you do THIS! You've established means of death, and a mythology, as thin as it may be, to go along with it. Start matching stuff to the painting, and you've got the start of something!
You've got these characters walking through a maze already. I can see what you're wanting to do. Why are you not doing it?? Don't just have the one exhibit sucking people in, use them all!
Speaking of that maze, you know what we haven't seen in awhile? Yep, more shots of every character separately wandering that same damned hallway! At least we drop in a zombie or two to spice things up.
The girls eventually wander their way into another exhibit of masks and weapons, and just as Lisa goes to grab one off the wall, Exposition Man tells her to not touch any of the weapons because they may still contain ancient poisons.
Why, thank you, Disembodied Omniscient Voice!
They start to hear screams and whispers or whatever, and they guess the sounds are coming from the masks, and use that as their cue to get the heck out of there. Oh, oh no, you're only a third of the way through the movie. You don't get to escape that easily.
A guy they invited along joins in on the wandering, ends up in a room, looks at the stuff and wanders back off. Then a zombie peeks in. This is pretty much the whole movie, isn't it?
Eventually the girls end up in another room, and decide they're lost. How can you be lost? There's only one hallway!!
But in the room there's a nifty skull with a ruby quartz visor...er, ruby eyes, and Expository Voice tells the story of a cannibalistic warrior that the skull belonged to, and not to look into the eyes or a curse will befall you. So, standard stuff.
Which is of course Lisa's cue to say hey! Let's look into the eyes! As you do.
So of course they both look into the skull's eyes despite the warnings, and promptly disappear in a puff of bad effects.
They reappear on the native warrior's killing floor and wonder how they got there. Just a guess, but not heeding the advice of Disembodied Omniscient Voice.
As they try and figure out what happened, the dude that got killed at the start of the movie wakes up in all his glowy eyed zombie glory and...
...HE STARTS DOING JUMPING SPIN KICKS.
ZOMBIE MARTIAL ARTS
He bites Lisa and Jules finally gets to use her kickboxing skills she's been bragging about. We're also treated to the lame stuntwork this movie adds on top of everything else. But, more jumping parkour zombie, so hey
Jewel grabs her cellphone to try and call for help, but oh look. Mystical hell dimensions get no signal.
So naturally Jewel leaves her friend all alone in the zombie apocalypse to try and get outside and make the call. Even though it already looks like they are outside. Does the outside have an outside? Did we land in a tesseract?
Anyways, that's surely gonna end well, right?
While she wanders off, there's another poor guy that gets eaten by more zombies, because something needs to happen before there's more wandering.
After Jewel amazingly actually manages to make a call, she runs into their friend Midas. Yes, at 48 minutes into the movie, one character finally finds another character in this plot. I guess there was Jim and McCloud, but that seemed more planned.
Speaking of those two, the movie remembers they'rein it, and after someone ELSE gets eaten, jumps back to them wandering the maze of hallway.
Back in the zombie hell dimension, Jewel and Midas try and find Lisa, but she's gone elsewhere. And we get one stupid occurance and one smart. Midas picks up a nice thick bone, and Jules drops her phone as she walks away and doesn't notice. Guess which is which. Of course, the lost phone NEVER enters the plot again, so it doesn't matter.
They find zombie Lisa, and quickly run away. But you were looking for her, guys! Come back!!
Dead Cowboy's girlfriend runs into Jim, tells him they're in hell, they're trapped, and then they split up and she gets eaten. Thanks for the info? Nice knowing you?
Jim soon runs into Zombie Lisa and thinks her costume is great and she's hot. He then proceeds to take photos of her, and for a *moment* I almost want her to get into the impromptu photoshoot, but it doesn't happen.
Instead she attacks Jim, and he punches her in the face until he can run away.
Jewel and Midas somehow escape, and put together that they're in a maze, and the painting is a map. Well, Jules puts it together. Midas doesn't believe it, despite being the one to say they're in a maze, and the painting is just like this situation.
It is not Jim's day though, as he runs into Street Fighter Zombie, and they seem to know each other. Before we can find out more though, the zombie attacks, and Jim falls back on his trusted zombie facepunch.
Jim's troubles aren't over as the cannibal warrior shows up and turns out to be immune to the zombie facepunch, and gives Jim a few punches back.
Somehow he manages to escape though, and end up back in the Warehouse of the Dead, just in time for McCloud to find the other two in the map room.
McCloud tries to explain that he's there to return these artifacts to their rightful places, and that there is no way out. To add to that, the map shows only dead ends. Well, that is a useless map.
But wait, there's hope! At sunrise there will be an opening! But just briefly! Because the movie desires needless drama!
Meanwhile, some cops actually arrive on the scene, yay! They'll be dead soon, I'm sure.
Could that map behind them be a more better map than the one with all the dead ends?
And cue a montage of more running through the corridor! Now with more of my favourite trope, pointlessly shouting someone's name over and over!
To top that off, they replay McCloud's speech about the portal. Just in case you forgot about it in the several minutes since he told you.
AND JULES WAKES UP. I am gonna...wait. There's still 30 minutes left. This might be the a classic double double dream fake out.
Jewel sees the museum flyer and a note from Lisa that she went there without her since she was asleep...and she's instantly back in the maze of hallway? Um? So, what was that all about then? That was barely even worth the fakeout.
She comes across Lisa, and they fight once she realises her friend is now a zombie and has a taste for Puerto Rican food. But AGAIN Lisa gets punched in the face.
Jewel ends up back at the center of the maze, and before she's teleported to Zombieland again, she says she must be going in circles. YES that would be the point of the maze.
Or, she just noticed there's only the one hallway finally.
That's when all the zombies show up and she gets to kickbox some more, and it's not any better than it was the first time. Some of the worst fight editing I've seen in awhile.
She returns to the map room and some paintings come to life and attack her. So, more bad choreography, before there's still more running and the painting people disappear. Because apparently that's a thing now.
I am frustrated that the movie has killed off so many characters they had to bring in the two cops to keep the plot moving. Because all they're doing is going through the same rooms with the same reactions as before. The only difference is they're armed.
Which is a plus, but such a rehash.
But they find their way to the skull chamber and of course look directly into Scott's visor, following everyone else into limbo. Finally though, the plots converge since Midas and Jewel are there as well.
Oh look! Another two people we HAVE NOT SEEN BEFORE, for an entire hour and more of the movie have arrived! And are dead within ten seconds. More pointless death. I mean, yay death and all, but this trope is wearing thin.
The cops lead Midas and Jewel out of the hut, and of course, zombies occur. The cops are reluctant to shoot, because...um...they're LAPD, they should be dropping the hammer immediately, really. I got nothin'.
So Midas gets attacked by Lisa while the worst cops ever whinge about what to do. But at least they finally start opening fire. Let's see how well that goes for 'em.
And what would a zombie movie be without a "Kill me!" "I can't!" scene? But one of the cops takes Midas out as he turns, since Jewel isn't gonna.
While everyone runs for the hut, the dude cop gets bitten. That's when Tolec arrives and he decides to sacrifice himself so the two women can escape.
For someone she just met, Russo sure is already on the "I won't leave my partner!!" bandwagon.
Jewel and Russo decided to go BACK to the map room because what this movie needed was more running through the corridor! And Jim and McCloud are doing the same thing.
If they don't know where the opening is, maybe they need to ask Indiana Jones to borrow his staff the next time they come to the map room.
The movie literally goes in circles as they keep running into the same room, until they come back to the weapons room and grab some stuff. Poison be damned.
Everyone FINALLY stops running through hallway and fighting zombies and ends up in the maze room, where Russo meets McCloud. John McCloud.
...Of the Clan MacLeod. He was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. And he is immortal.
He explains the map, pointing to the skull room, saying Bobin expects you to think that's the way out. Ummmm, why? Why would you look at a map of a maze and go, "Hmm! The exact center, that must be the way out!"
Then, he points to the sun and says that's the way out. But...but why didn't you do that 45 minutes ago?! You had to be all mysterious and say, "The opening may not be where it was." The map has it right there, you point, and...Argh.
With the way McCloud talks, the map is either their guide, or useless. Literally in the span of a sentence. "The sun is your way out. Here. But it may not be. Bobin is tricky. And it moves. And the map is useless." Aaargh squared.
Those three head off and leave McCloud to find the skull. Before he can leave though, the warrior women show up, and they reuse the same clip of the guy dodging the spear about a dozen times, until he throws magic dust at the women and make them attack each other.
Meanwhile, the trio finds the skull room AGAIN (McCloud shoulda stuck with 'em) and Tolec takes out Jim. Russo gets lost in the shuffle, and Jewel runs away. McCloud turns up after a bit and finds his dead friend, but he also takes Tolec's head. And with it, their power.
Y'know, the curse is pretty vague. People sure don't need to look at the skull to be attacked by Tolec. Just be in the general area. Or not. Zombies'll getcha.
Aztec Hannibal shows up to try and keep his head, and gets in a fight with McCloud. It may not be a swordfight, but they do break out some knives, at least.
The last thing McCloud told the girls was not to use the obvious. So of course, the instant an "EXIT" sign appears and the Disembodied Omniscient Voice tells her to exit...she tries. And lets in a horde of zombies.
And WOW did I call it. Jewel looks up at the OTHER mazelike painting at the beginning of the museum, touches the sun, and THAT lets her out. Of course it does.
She gets teleported outside, and the abandoned warehouse now looks like a barn. She picks up the flier and watches as it changes to say "Museum FOR the Dead"!
GASP OMINOUS...and meaning nothing really. What next, How to Cook for Humans?
We then see a man in black walking away with the skull, and they get a call, turning around and...it's a woman in black! RUSSO WORKS FOR BOBIN! Gasp!
That's...actually not a bad twist, really. Anyways, the cop reports to her boss about the two that got away, but he's not worried because the movie's over and McCloud has driven off into the sunset.
Video: This movie commits my cardinal sin of taking a widescreen presentation and squishing it into a 4:3 box with giant matte bars, making for such an unflattering presentation. That considered...it's okay. The colours work, the shadows don't overtake anything, and I never once questioned what was going on in the hallway.
Audio: While it leaves much to be desired, the audio also falls well into the "Good enough to get the job done" category. Which is still a high bar for Trisk.
Sound Bite: "It's like we're on some sort of movie set!" NEVER undercut your production values like that! Never ever. It's one of those cutesy self-referential moments, but the problem here is, all it does is call attention to how cardboard is your corridor.
Body Count: What the movie lacks in...well, everything, it sure does make up for it via a nice body count. I definitely give the movie points on this score. Even if none of the three THREE! bad guys bite it. But as I show here, there's far too many nameless corpses for me to give a crap. And to be far, at least two of them WERE named on screen. Barely. And then they died. They may as well have been nameless non-entities.
1 - Nameless victim #1 gets cudgeled to death by a Tolec 17 minutes in.
2 - Nameless victim #2 falls prey to a random zombie.
3 - Nameless victim #3 finds double complete zombies to eat him.
4 - Nameless victim #4, but this time with a cowboy hat! also gets eaten.
5 - Lisa dies from her zombie bite, so at least there's someone with an actual name.
6 - Nameless cowboy's equally nameless girlfriend also finds some zombies.
7 and 8 - MORE nameless people walk in and immediately die.
9 - After being bitten by Lisa, Midas gets put down by one of the cops.
10 - Officer Long sacrifices himself to Tolec.
11 - After spending most of the movie as the human punching bag, Tolec gets the best of Jimmy.
Best Corpse: It would seem like I'm spoiled for choices, but this time there's the curse of "But I don't care" and they're all so samey and zombiefied. I guess Lisa has to win this round because she's someone we cared about, and we get to see her transform and do some stuff.
Blood Type - F: You would think a movie with ancient cannibal warriors and zombies, there'd be more blood. You would be wrong. What little credit I give here is for some okay zombie makeup, and some bites.
Sex Appeal: Does Lisa's blue leotard and fishnets count?
Drink Up: Oh, you saw this coming I bet, every time someone stumbles around the corridor of mazes.
Sights and Sounds: I was seriously tempted to edit out all the hallway wandering, just to see how long the movie was afterwards, but I have some remnants of sanity remaining. Instead, you get the jump kicking zombie! Plus some bonus treat of the caliber of acting in this turkey.
Movie Review: Oh, where to begin with Museum of the Dead? Do I start with the acting? Well, it could certainly be worse. Do I start with the plot, that isn't terrible an idea, but ill-conceived and poorly executed? Do I start with the production values, which are downright laughable at times? There's almost nothing GOOD here. The best thing I can say about the movie is that it's got a solid idea, it tries to do it, but the only thing to speak of here is the entertainment value. So I am moving straight on to that. Two out of five nameless characters. And it scores that high because I've seen much more poorly made movies, and once you get past the shoddy, cheap sets, it's MADE well enough.
Entertainment Value: When this movie wasn't getting lost in the museum, wasting a lot of time just wandering around, it was actually kinda fun. I am torn on bad-mouthing the body count, because it was decent, but at the same time unremarkable. Still, the movie knew enough to pepper in someone getting axed at just the right times. The story is completely bonkers, borrowing ideas executed better in any number of movies, some of which I've reviewed even, but the stumbling around here makes for a movie you just shake your head at as they try. They try SO hard. There's almost TOO many ideas, and the ones they settle to run with just aren't that great. If the movie had been more varied and wasn't 90 minutes of more of the same repeatedly, there'd be something. Still, what we do get, is a certain kind of inspired madness. I mean, all I gotta say is zombie fu. Come on. Where ELSE are you going to see a zombie bouncing around like he's the best kickfighter ever? If the movie had given me MORE of that...! This movie definitely falls into the realm of "Oh, you have got to see this!" JUST to see this. It's that best kind of flick where you are utterly baffled at what you're watching, when you aren't given too much time to think. Which, sadly, the movie gives you TOO much of that time, when the characters resume their wandering. The only reason this movie doesn't score higher is it could've been MORE crazy, but it's still pretty dang fun. Three out of five hallway corridor.
Making fun of that one overused set to the bitter end.