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Slave traders bring back an evil voodoo entity that is accidentally freed by the Confederate army during the Civil War. The entity possesses the bodies of the dead soldiers to create an army of its own bent on conquest, using the corpses of both the North and South. Written by
With some similarities to S.P. Somtow's brilliant epic novel 'Darker Angels' cross-pollinated with Peckinpah's 'Major Dundee,' this should have been so very much better than it is. Having seen both versions of the film, I'm afraid that much of the blame for the fact that an intriguing script has been turned into such a frustratingly below-average movie can be laid firmly at George Hickenlooper's door. Sadly, his direction is barely a step up from Ed Wood, unable to use his limited budget to his best advantage - in addition to his terror of long shots (most of the film is played in flat two-shots or medium close-up), in the early medic sequence the camera is all too obviously just moving around in a circle to make both set and the handful of extras look more substantial (he fails miserably). Worse, he can't handle action or, to any great effect, actors.
Judging from his audio commentary on his cut on Laser Disc, his awe at Coppola's achievements with 'Apocalypse Now' has led him to slavishly imitate rather than innovate. Every other comment on the disc is about how this shot or that cast member or that piece of make-up was inspired by 'Apocalypse.' The trouble is that where Coppola had tens of millions of dollars, this looks like it's been funded by a whipround in a local bar. Hickenlooper, of course, made the brilliant documentary 'Hearts of Darkness': obviously, he's still travelling down that river long after Coppola packed his bags and went home...
A truly gifted documentary-maker, he just seems clueless about how to compose a dramatic shot or propel action: he seems to be at the mercy of events rather than controlling them. Hopefully someone will be able to salvage the remake rights and do the premise justice, but in the meantime Hickenlooper should return to what he does best - making great documentaries rather than bad fictional features.
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