Last Rites deserves the right to remain silent

     It has become fashionable in recent years for film festivals to hold midnight screenings that showcase indie horror films. Sometimes the screenings have worked as launch pads to contemporary classics, such as 'Saw' or 'Hostel'. Aside from offering gory films a platform, it also offers the festival audience a change of pace after watching one heavy drama after another. Sounds like a great idea, right? Not always. Apparently, offering an indie horror film has become such standard practice, that a festival will accept one even if it has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Enter the new L.A. gangster zombie film, 'Last Rites.' This is a film trapped in between genres that can never decide whether it wants to be unintentionally funny or just plain bad on every level.

                                           

Can't we all just get along?

    

    

 

 

 

 

 

     A meteor strikes a band of vagrants living in a reservoir and soon enough they have been infected in some way that transforms them into zombies. Across town, two gangs the lords of Crenshaw from South Central and East Los Angeles' El Diablo Muerto are locked in a warehouse standoff thanks to a miscommunication with their arms dealer. The cops are sitting in a van outside waiting to make a bust. Everything plays like a shallow gangster cop film until the vagrant zombies come rolling through and we have virtually two unsuccessful films working in unison. Is this a bad Bruckheimer meteorite film with gangsters? Or is it simply a failed attempt at a zombie movie? The answer is both.     

 

This bites

     In no time at all, these rival gangs and the police are trapped together and forced to work as a team in order to survive. Problem is, no one can seem to get on the same page when it comes to concocting a plan. The Muertos can't allow the Lords of Crenshaw or the police to act as the alpha dogs and they certainly can't treat their women right. The lords of Crenshaw are a little more willing to work with the cops, but not at all with Diablo Muerto. The only thing this conundrum creates is a film lacking in zombies for long stretches of time, which was the only chance this schlock ever had at being viewable in the first place. What makes things worse is that Stinnett can't seem to decide if this film is to be taken seriously as a horror thriller, or as some sort of spoof on the genre all together. There are moments where the actors seem to be in on the joke, but what Stinnett doesn't seem to realize is that if the actors are in on the joke, then it is no longer funny.

     Undoubtedly director Duane Stinnett would have you believe he was pulling tricks from the hat of the great horror masters, George C. Romero and John Carpenter, but don't buy into the hype. While Stinnett does use themes of racism and adds latex to his zombie gore, he also fails to say anything remotely insightful about either of his subjects, which is precisely what made Romero's films such classics. Instead, Stinnett creates a world of stereotypical gangsters who exist only to push his insulting 'can't we all just get along" cliche. It seems as though any resemblance of real people in Stinnett's world were read their last rights before the cameras started rolling.

"Last Rites" screens this weekend at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Tickets and information can be obtained at www.lafilmfest.com

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