The emphasis of the film was more on the story of why these souls were coming back to Pueblo Bonita than the fact that they were the living dead. They were not infected by some strain of mutant virus or something that is transferable by biting or anything like that. Having said that, it was actually a pretty decent film – for a Sci-Fi original movie.
We begin the film with a history of Pueblo Bonita which is run by a nasty man by the name of Vargas Diaz (Danny Trejo) who has the town digging through the tomb of the Goddess of Death. In this tomb, great treasures are found which of course Diaz promises to share with the townsfolk if they continue to help him. Diaz sponsors a Dia de los Muertos celebration in which he leads all of the townspeople into the tomb and subsequently seals them in by blasting the entrance. He does this so that he may be granted immortality for his significant sacrifice to the Goddess of Death.
Flash forward quite a few years and we find the White family who are taking a little vacation to celebrate the fact that their boy Ricky (Noah Luke) has gotten out of the hospital after beating Polio. On their way to a little Mexican vacation on the beach, they stop in Pueblo Bonita to rest for the night. Tip one: If you stop in a little deserted Mexican town and walk into the local hotel and are not greeted at the front desk, just keep going to next little deserted Mexican town and try their hotel instead. Thomas White (Jeffrey Combs) in all his wisdom ignores all the little nagging signs that this is just not a good place to stay the night and books himself, his wife Sarah (Ellie Cornell), his daughter Lily (Mircea Monroe) and his son Ricky into a night of terror.
Flash forward to present day and we find Joss Gilbert (Travis Wester) and his girlfriend Marisa Ramirez (Alicia Barena) lost in Mexico as they try to find their way to Marisa’s family’s new ranch. They decide to stop in the next little town to ask directions which happens to be (yep you guessed it!) Pueblo Bonita. Only problem is they (literally) run into a funeral procession and end up finding out that the “corpse” inside is actually a still living and breathing Esmerelda (Danielle Burgio). It seems that her tongue has been cut out so that no one could hear her screams from the casket. Being the good Samaritans that they are, they run and fetch the gimpy Sheriff Blanco (David Keith) and he promises to get Esmerelda medical attention and to find out who did this to her. He also points the young couple to the local hotel where they are to ask for Oleta (Julia Vera) and stay the night because their car is totaled. After the kids leave for the hotel you realize that Sheriff Blanco isn’t all he’s cracked up to be when he opens the drawer to his desk and you see Esmerelda’s tongue. He also makes the comment that what has begun must be completed.
The kids are greeted by Martia (Laura Harring) who at first says the hotel is full then decides they do have a room once she sees Marisa. Martia gives them a bottle of wine from Oleta to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Tip Two: Never accept a bottle of wine when you are stranded in a town where you have discovered a group of townsfolk carrying a casket of a live person with their tongue cut out – or at least don’t drink it. Strange things start to happen as the very strong wine takes effect and Marisa just wants to get out of there. Joss calls on a couple of his friends whom Marisa doesn’t quite care for to pick them up, but he doesn’t tell them the full story of what has happened in Pueblo Bonita.
When Tyler (Laz Alonso) and Erica (Nichole Hiltz) arrive, they are exhausted from their two hour drive and want to just spend the night in Pueblo Bonita and have a little wine and relaxation. Marisa and Joss insist that they leave tonight and Joss proceeds to put their bags in the car. He leaves Marisa with his friends as he does this. On his way back to the hotel, Joss decides to stop at the police station to pick up his driver’s license and check on Esmerelda. Once there he discovers that Esmerelda has become a flesh-eating zombie. After somehow locking Esmerelda in the jail cell (without any keys), Joss makes his way through more zombies (who are not as fast or strong as Esmerelda – maybe the zombies lose strength the longer they are “dead”?) only to find that Marisa is missing!
Apparently, while Joss was gone, Martia offered the kids a bread which had been specially prepared by Oleta for the Dia de los Muertos. Tip Three: Never accept any food specially prepared by a woman who hisses at you and spends her days creating evil voodoo dioramas of various death scenarios – especially if that bread is made in honor of Dia de los Muertos. The bread and wine of course made everyone fall asleep. While they were asleep, Marisa was taken by Sheriff Blanco to be some sort of sacrifice for the Goddess of Death so that the undead would stop walking the streets of Pueblo Bonita. Of course, Joss and Marisa have spoiled these plans and now all holy hell will break loose.
The remainder of the film deals with the kid’s struggle to make it through the night alive and Marisa’s need to make what is wrong in the town right again.
Something you will need to get over in order to enjoy this film is the grating annoyance of Joss’s character especially at the beginning. Someone must have given him free reign to improvise or the writers were just on crack when creating his character. Either way, his annoying character almost made me flip the channel on this little gem. After about 1/3 of the film his ramblings do calm down a bit. Of course at that point Tyler and Erica show up and they are quite annoying although not so much so as Joss. If you can bear with these problems, you will find a really good story and creepy, ghost story-like atmosphere. The evil voodoo dioramas created by Oleta are fascinating. And each time Vargas appeared on screen he just gave me the chills because he really portrayed the evilness and nastiness of his character extremely well.