“Psycho, somatic, addict insane!” – The Prodigy
Michael (Diego Boneta), a young American tourist running away from personal demons as best he can journeys throughout South America. Lootless, there’s only one mission in his carefree life: survive. He lands in Medellin, Colombia and quickly links up with Melody (Maria Mesa). Who, in turn, becomes a saving grace as she quickly warms up to him, crash courses the ropes, and introduces him to a band of misfits led by Jacob (Jackson Rathbone) known as “The Dead Men” who have made an abandoned, psychiatric hospital for kids their live-in playground. Offering Michael friendship and home, he decides to stay. As time goes on, Michael begins to uncover horrific truths beyond his comprehension. Dread continues to build and as soon as Michael feels he’s had too much, it’s a wee bit late to retreat.
Something about this film generates a feeling of having been there and done that. It covers the all too familiar color-by-number clichés when exposing a gullible, touring gringo who entrusts the wrong crowd. Art imitating life, or life imitating art? Either way, it’s obvious it’s not going to go well. The film starts off well in terms of generating mystery and high levels on the creep-o-meter. The narrative itself tends to lure you in. Hell, that opening scene alone was a chilling charm of creepy kids. The issue is when the film seems to peak, it felt a bit empty. Halfway through, CITY seemed to not really “go there.” Almost like it didn’t know what kind of film it wanted to be. It didn’t really unleash what it cryptically teased during its first half. Almost like seesawing between an art film like THE WITCH, or a harder mind-fuck like THE DEVIL’S REJECTS – which I think would have worked a lot better. (What team are you playing for, bro?)
But truth is it isn’t that bad. The cast of leads are great to watch. Even though Diego has a long way to go before he can be considered a leading hero, he has an it-factor. On the flip, Jackson and Maria help connect the dots between protagonist and antagonist. The script didn’t help propel character likability and/or relatability, but it’s not the end-of-times. Much respect and a standing ovation for keeping it authentic in terms of real Colombian actors and accents (except for leads) when stating the location is in Colombia. Very often we see a Latin American location on screen and once actors open their mouths the dialect is totally off. That grinds my gears and I’ve called many out several times for false advertisement. As a whole, CITY OF DEAD MEN deserves respect and a watch. If anything, it’s reminiscent in many ways of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (you’ll know when you see it), only this one’s on a really bad Iowaska trip.
Grade: C+ / Genre: Horror / Rated: NR / Run Time: 1:28
Starring: Jackson Rathbone, Diego Boneta, Maria Mesa
Directed by: Kirk Sullivan