Reviews: The Burning Dead

Danny Trejo is multi-cultural in The Burning Dead

Everyone loves Danny Trejo.

And why wouldn't they?  Simply put, the man is a national treasure.  From Machete to Con Air to Muppets Most Wanted, Trejo has represented the quintessential (Mexican-)American badass, a bona fide former convict who can actually walk the talk.  His mere presence in a film--heck, just his face on the poster or box art meant someone was about to get their ass kicked, and you were going to have a great time watching Danny Trejo do what Danny Trejo does best.

"No one ever told me I was an Indian."
In the case of  The Burning Dead, the "someone" is lava zombies.  And, unfortunately, you don't get to see Trejo kick any of their asses.  In fact, with the exception of a couple of short wraparound scenes and a bit of exposition, you don't get to see Trejo much at all. Sure, he's mean mugging and brandishing a knife bigger than his head on the poster, as usual, but that's how they reel you in to make you watch movies like this.

In The Burning Dead, Trejo's character (a Cherokee Indian, in one of the most egregious cases of racebending since Al Pacino played Scarface) tells the story of a cursed volcano haunted by evil spirits that can resurrect the dead.  At least, that's what I think it's about.  Even with the exposition it's a little hard to follow, and it basically just uses the "mountain curse" to explain away a lot of things that seem otherwise awkwardly shoehorned in.  The rest of the awkwardly shoehorned in events have to do with what passes as character development.  We meet Mindy (Moniqua Plant), a single mom who just wants to get her family out of town safely and her estranged father.  She's joined by her daughter and the town sheriff.  Unfortunately, none of these characters do anything worth caring about, and some are downright annoying to the point where you start to root for the lava zombies.

"I've got wood and I'm not afraid to use it."
Yes, here is where the lava zombies come in. In all honesty, this is a pretty interesting idea and one that hasn't really been done before.  Unfortunately, it's about the only good or interesting thing in the entire movie, other than Trejo's scenery chewing. The Burning Dead tries to sell itself as horror but there's nothing scary about it.  There is at least some value as an unintentional comedy, but there are much better options for that out there.  Overall, The Burning Dead is a mess, literally and figuratively, saved from utter ineptitude by a few interesting ideas.  And of course, Danny Trejo.

-Mike Stec