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Legion Of The Dead
cast: Russell Friedenberg, Michael Carr, Kimberly Liebe, Matthias Hues, and Hank Stone
writer and director: Olaf Ittenbach

86 minutes (18) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay UK DVD Region 2 rental / retail
Also available to rent or buy on video

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by James Starkey
Spawned from the mind of cult director Olaf Ittenbach, Legion Of The Dead is a sketch of a movie that promises so much but delivers perilously little. Designed as a black satire on the trigger-happy blockbusters of the 1990s, Ittenbach guides the viewer through numerous conflicting subplots before setting up his characters for a big finale.
   With one eye firmly on the master class that is Pulp Fiction, Legion Of The Dead introduces two unsettled individuals in the shape of Luke and William (Russell Friendenberg, Michael Carr). Both these men appear moderately interesting at the beginning - one being semiliterate and the other trying hard to ignore his friend's childlike mental state. This is where their appeal ends however. Whilst hitchhiking, they accept a lift from a psychotic local who proceeds to kidnap the two and shoot dead a pursuing policeman. Rather than use the opportunity to further explore the men's obvious paranoia, Ittenbach has them transform into a pair of indulgent and self-depreciating morons - atypical of the kind of banal humour that both filmmakers and television producers would have us believe is the staple of American comedy. Such is the extent of Carr and Friendenberg's overblown performances that any later characters introduced to the plot are immediately cast into shadow.
   One thing Ittenbach does achieve however at this point is a half-decent splinter story to the real plot. The whole kidnap scene, although wildly overacted, manages to fit in fairly comfortably with the rest of the film. What is most irritating about Legion Of The Dead is its penchant for introducing new characters at unsuitable points in the film. Ittenbach attempts to tie in two main characters with a strange god-like figure known as Togaio (Matthias Hues) who is seen surveying a massacre in ancient times. Apparently this individual has grown into some arcane god who seeks an illusive breed of shape-shifting demons (non of this would be clear until the last 20 minutes of the movie, adding to viewers' bewilderment) The two main characters mentioned are 'recruiters' for Togaio; their main objective to execute locals and then transform them into the legion of the dead to serve their god-master. Unfortunately, both of these recruiting characters are agonisingly inadequate. Playing on the 'tough guy/clumsy fool' partnership mode, the pair drift around hating the sight of each other whilst attempting to recruit more individuals to the army of Togaio. Ittenbach attempts again to induce a sense of uneasy unpredictability with these two men, as so often achieved brilliantly by Tarantino. In this case however, our director fails gloriously and is instead left with a plot spiralling out of control and a brand of humour repellent to all but the most die-hard of enthusiasts.
   As the conclusion to the movie draws nearer, it becomes clear that Legion Of The Dead is virtually a dedication in film to Quentin Tarantino. Not only does Ittenbach use the splinter-plot method that is legendary with Pulp Fiction, he also attempts to present the character of the kidnapper as an unhinged loner such as Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs. To make matters worse, he then introduces the horror element to the movie and tries his hand at reproducing the final scene of From Dusk Till Dawn. Having stumbled through the previous 70 minutes, Luke, William and another gung-ho individual find themselves at a local diner. There they meet a beautiful waitress who holds a dark secret. Togaio and his recruiters also soon show up with predictable consequences. Scenes that wouldn't have looked out of place in Blade then ensue with some fairly impressive special effects thrown in. This cannot detract however from the paper-thin plot that drags the rest of the movie kicking and screaming to an unfulfilling conclusion.
   There are parts to this movie not detailed here but they are of little consequence as none of them actually come to mean anything by the end of the film. They are just presented as coincidental 'occurrences' and are as such fairly meaningless. For those who enjoy an anarchistic approach to plot-development, Legion Of The Dead may be right for you. For all others, avoid it at all costs.
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