Vengeance of the Dead: The Nerfed Llamas Review – Wherein We Discuss Sleepwalking, Possessions, and Why Shouldn’t Trust Grandpa Alone in the Basement.
I’m reviewing Vengeance of the Dead today as a special request. It is a rare occasion, but I do get some solid feedback from my readers and even some special requests. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get the request. It came at a rather advantageous time, as I had no idea which Full Moon movie to watch next. So, instead of stabbing in the dark through the expansive catalog on Full Moon’s Streaming service, I was turned on to this small indie ghost film that Full Moon picked up for distribution way back in 2001. If any reader has any other Full Moon film review requests, please let me know and I will give your flick a watch.
Click the following link to keep up to date on this year’s Full Moon Features festivities including film reviews and other articles: 2nd Annual: May is Officially Full Moon Features Month at Nerfed Llamas!
What is Vengeance of the Dead: Vengeance of the Dead is a low budget ghost possession horror movie made in 2001, written and directed by Don Adams & Harry James Picardi (Jigsaw, Dozers). The film stars Michael Galvin (Shank’s Mare, The White Room), Mark Vollmers (Jigsaw, Dozers), Susan Karsnick (The Scene of the Crime, Yellow Bicycle Handle), Ariauna Albright (Bloodletting, Witchouse II: Blood Coven), and a handful of absolute unknowns (at least according to IMDB). Vengeance of the Dead chronicles the misadventures of the recently possessed young man, Eric, who is visiting his grandpa for the first time since grandma passed away. What starts as a seemingly innocent visit, becomes something far more involved when Eric discovers a antique spoon in a dilapidated property near his grandpa’s home. Slowly, Eric loses control over his body each night, as the ghost of a long dead young girl possesses his body and uses him as a vessel of vengeance against those that wronged her and her family over 60 years ago.
What I liked about Vengeance of the Dead: It’s a good twist on the standard possession story, that has a tremendous pay off at the end. Clearly I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say I don’t think you’ll see that last twist coming. The movie gets a slow start with a lot of set up, but once the ball gets rolling the story starts picking up little pieces of detail and new wrinkles that constantly keep you guessing. This is a slow burn story, so if you are looking for jump scares and a roller coaster of events, Vengeance of the Dead may not be the film that you are looking for. This film trades in the cheap scares and ghastly make up, for a solid level of suspense and a generally creepy ambiance that drives the whole experience. You can clearly see that the directors had a vision for this film, and they do an admirable job of bringing that focus to the final product.
The soundtrack was pretty killer. Admittedly, your enjoyment will likely hinge on how open you are to unique sounds, as the songs that are interlaced throughout the film are not standard rock or country cuts. The music has a sound that is quite different than the norm, even by college radio standards. One group that stands out in particular is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, which is an eclectic mix of country, folk, and rock with a front-man that warbles like a mix between Hank Williams Sr, Buddy Holly, and Tiny Tim. It is something that has to be experienced to be believed. Here is a sample of what you can expect to hear in Vengeance of the Dead.
What I didn’t like about Vengeance of the Dead: The lack of a budget really hurts this film. It is a well constructed and unique take on a classic possession story, but the production value doesn’t do the story justice. There is drops in audio and film quality that come out of nowhere. On top of that, the small budget really curtailed the directors’ ability to make scenes more grandiose or terrifying. A lot of the horror scenes are simple cutaways, which leads me to believe that they didn’t have the means to film what they wanted to. It is difficult to have big ideas when you do not have a budget adequate enough to fully film what your vision for the project is. Unfortunately, this is something that sticks out in a big way throughout Vengeance of the Dead.
The acting by the side characters was not the best. As mentioned above, many of the actors only have this film listed in their IMDB page as their sole filmed credit. This is likely the case because they were friends and/or family of the directors and production staff. Many low budget indie filmmakers go this route because it helps them save a ton of money, but the quality drop in the acting is also definitely noticeable. It’s a tough call that all independent filmmakers have to make. Perhaps it is better to take your time in the casting process and find actors of some depth that can portray your characters, even if it means offering a payout of sorts. Many colleges, even community colleges, offer a solid theater program. Directors would be wise to partner up with the Professors that oversee these programs and find a way to offer extra credit or an internship in exchange for acting and help on the production end of the filming.
Bottom Line: It’s a touch rough around the edges, but there is enough good reasons to justify watching Vengeance of the Dead. There is a palpable sense of suspense that makes this unique take on ghostly possession worth watching. The lack of production value can pull you out of the experience, so set your expectations accordingly when you start watching this film for the first time. This is a 100% guerrilla filmmaking style independent film, akin to how Sam Raimi made the original Evil Dead film. Production issues aside, there are some top notch ideas at play, great music, creepy vibes, and some genuinely terrific plot twists that keep Vengeance of the Dead thoroughly entertaining. I recommend giving Vengeance of the Dead a watch on a quiet night that finds you looking for something a little bit spooky that’s off the beaten path. You can watch Vengeance of the Dead on Full Moon’s Streaming service, or purchase it on DVD from the Full Moon Direct online store.
Here is a trailer for Vengeance of the Dead, check it out and see if you’d like to find a antique spoon that makes you fall in love with a dead person that possesses your body and makes you kill people…