Jun 29, 2016
Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005) (part 2 of 6)
Note: A few of the images in this recap may be not safe for work, or rather, not safe for lunch. It gets a bit gruesome, so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Cut to the present day. Or, rather, “Five Days Ago”, as a caption indicates. I didn’t notice this caption the first time around—probably because my eyes were trying to roll out of my skull. But this caption gets explained later. It’s a pretty weak explanation, but an explanation nonetheless.
And then comes the opening narration. I hate to quote so much of this, but it really has to be shared for you to get the full effect. This is what we’re dealing with:
Narrator: What is immortality, but the need to be remembered? We throw around terms like “family” and “love” when it comes to procreation, when in fact all we’re doing is perpetuating the species and generating instant immortality through our genes. We’re so selfish as to expect the next generation to love us and fear us, so that they feel in turn compelled to continue the line, the patriarchal ideal of uninterrupted progeny.
Oh boy. This is where the film starts to go from merely amateurish to genuinely painful. And rest assured, the cheap philosophy isn’t going to let up any time soon. And my confidence in the film is certainly not bolstered by the first sight of the main characters.
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Turns out the narration comes from Isaac, the philosopher and pretentious fop, reading from a book called Defying Death (which as far as I can tell is not real, thank God). He and Boris the Geeky Guy, Jackie the Brooklynite, Sam the Black Guy, and Donwynn the Vaguely Gay Guy all sit in black jumpsuits, picking up trash in and around the same area where the twitchy aide died years ago.
My first thought was that they were convicts doing community service, but then Geeky Guy notes that Isaac’s girlfriend Emma gets out in a month, while he gets out in a week. So either they’re prisoners in the nation’s first co-ed jailhouse, or mental patients. There’s some banter about Spaghetti Tuesdays that I am not backtracking for, and then Vaguely Gay Guy tells Isaac to keep reading from his book because… I don’t know. God hates us.
Isaac reads some garbage about statues, and how we keep trying to leave things on Earth to give us immortality, because “there’s nothing after death.” I’ve never subscribed to this philosophy myself, but right now the thought of oblivion is looking kind of appealing.
Isaac goes on and on about death not being a bad thing, and Brooklynite reminds everyone that they’ve had this conversation before. To emphasize his point, he throws a piece of litter off-camera, and Black Guy goes to pick it up.
And wouldn’t you know it, Black Guy finds the thermos, still lying more or less out in the open. He picks it up and dumbly shouts, “Treasure! Treasure!” Mental patients it is, then.
Vaguely Gay Guy says, “Only you would have seen that in all that greenery,” which doesn’t say much for everyone else’s powers of observation. Also, the thermos doesn’t really look any the worse for wear. Exposure to the elements really should have tarnished the metal, or faded the color, or something. I mean, it’s been over 35 years.
Vaguely Gay Guy sees that the thermos is stamped with the name “De Luca, Dale” and a number. He tries to open it, only to find that the lid is stuck. He gives it back to Black Guy and says, “We’ll open it tonight.” And he has a weirdly smug grin, as though this is the highlight of everyone’s day. Ah, to be 32 again, when the world was full of wonder.
Isaac, however, is getting bad mojo from the canister, and says they shouldn’t open it. Brooklynite dismisses this, clumsily pointing out that Isaac’s here to get help for his “supernatural fantasies”. Uh… who gets institutionalized for that?
Brooklynite and Geeky Guy and Black Guy (AKA the Less Important Crazies) stalk off, leaving Vaguely Gay Guy to reassure Isaac. But Isaac thinks that maybe he’s not cured, and should stay another month. Despite Vaguely Gay Guy’s soothing words, he remains a mopey douche. Because there are some things even therapy can’t fix.
A hospital guard walks past a sign saying “Ravenside Memorial Hospital”, and then a caption helpfully repeats the name of the hospital, along with “Pennsylvania”. I’m assuming they’re trying to call attention to how the “Military” hospital is now a “Memorial” hospital, because I can’t think of any other reason why the same location got two separate captions.
Incidentally, this is clearly not Pennsylvania. This film was obviously shot in California, and the story could take place in Alaska, for all the difference it makes.
The camera lingers a while on someone looking out a window, which is interesting, because I’m fairly sure we never see this person again.
A bus pulls up, carrying all the crazies from the previous scene. Coming to greet them are a gangly girl in pajamas, and her goth friend. The two women walk past a sign saying “Romero Ward”. Geez. Even the in-jokes are awkwardly placed.
Meanwhile, a hooker looks on. I actually just jotted that down as I saw it, but in fact this turns out to be Vicky the Crack Whore. So, is this a ward for the mentally ill, or for drug addicts? Or are they doubling up to save money?
As it turns out, Gangly Gal is Isaac’s love interest Emma. Everyone gathers around Emma, and she and Isaac even bump their heads together. I guess it’s a mental patient’s way of showing affection, or something.
Goth Girl looks on disapprovingly, and a Latin guy starts sniffing at Vaguely Gay Guy and declaring him “woodsy”. Believe it or not, this comes into play later.
This tender moment of sorts is interrupted by Marshall, the hospital’s jerk warden. He declares all their breaks to be over, just because he says so. He gets called off somewhere, and then Emma and Goth Girl talk for a bit, during which I can’t help but notice that Goth Girl’s T shirt has the word “bollocks” written all over it. Sometimes this film makes things too easy.
Goth Girl asks Emma if it’s really a good idea to date a guy who’s getting out in a week, but of course love, she eez not sensible.
The Crack Whore mocks them, because she’s evil or something. She says Emma will “screw anyone for a penny” after Isaac’s gone. Goth Girl corrects her—Emma’s not a nympho or a whore, she’s a cutter, dammit. These distinctions are important.
Crack Whore goes on to say Isaac won’t come back to visit, and Emma will probably get put back on suicide watch, which makes Goth Girl all sad-eyed. Meanwhile, I wonder when this became a women-in-prison movie.
Cut to a close-up of scars on Emma’s arm, to confirm that she is in fact a cutter. It’s amazing how many minor plot points this movie repeats, while still making no sense whatsoever. Emma is then talking to Vaguely Gay Guy, who’s actually one of the therapists. Yes, it takes this long for us to find out his position.
Vaguely Gay Guy asks Emma if she’s had problems lately with “missing time”, and she hasn’t, which never becomes important. This was probably thrown in because Ana Clavell took a psychology class once.
Emma asks if Vaguely Gay Guy has been having any trouble with his “crew”, and it took me a while to parse that, but this line is just reaffirming that Isaac, Black Guy, Geeky Guy, and Brooklynite are his little group, and they get caught up in all kinds of wacky antics.
Emma’s worried about Isaac leaving, and Vaguely Gay Guy tells her that if she’s keeping anything inside, she needs to tell Isaac before it’s too late, etc. Because their love is so generic.
Cut to the first of many WTF? Moments in this picture, in this case a close-up of a TV screen, on which a tubby punk in Frankenstein makeup is drinking a bottle of booze. Geeky Guy watches this attentively. He’s in the middle of a roomful of cubicles, which is either their living quarters, or the Cathode Ray mission.
Black Guy cleans the thermos with a really dumb look on his face. Maybe he’s supposed to be the slow one, but in this group, it’s really hard to tell.
Meanwhile, Vaguely Gay Guy is sitting in a little doctor’s office off to the side of the cubicles. A cute nurse walks in. This is Ava, Vaguely Gay Guy’s sort-of love interest, who hence confuses the issue further.
She complains about Dr. Heller ordering her to write up reports on the staff’s “extracurricular activities”. Alas, that’s not a coy euphemism.
Vaguely Gay Guy says Heller’s a jerk, but a good guy. Cute Nurse says that to Heller, everything is a project. “I’m a project, you’re a project.” He’s a project, she’s a project, wouldn’t you like to be a project too? She marvels (and exposits) at how compassionate Vaguely Gay Guy is: Apparently, he sleeps in the same quarters as his patients.
He leaves to supervise Isaac’s visit with Emma, and gives Cute Nurse a little kiss. This raises more questions than it answers, but still, cute.
And then there’s more of the stupid horror film on TV that Geeky Guy is engrossed in. It’s an obviously shot-on-video affair, where a mad doctor with no shirt on (I’m counting this as WTF? Moment #2, despite technically being of a piece with #1) complains about his “Frankenpunk” getting drunk and killing two women. So the Frankenpunk kills him, and brings the girls back to life as “Frankenhoes”. The movie actually seems somewhat entertaining, at least compared to this fiesta de bland.
So, the big character detail here is that Geeky Guy is into cheesy horror movies, and apparently they couldn’t afford the rights to an actual cheesy horror movie for him to geek out over. (They obviously weren’t checking the public domain hard enough.)
Geeky Guy calls Black Guy over, telling him the good part’s coming up, but Black Guy’s almost done polishing the thermos. And no, that’s not a coy euphemism either.
Black Guy eventually joins Geeky Guy to watch the Frankenpunk saga unfold, so Brooklynite decides to sneak off with the thermos. This kinda makes you think maybe he’s a kleptomaniac, but that turns out to not be the case at all.
He leaves and Jerk Warden enters, and asks the two loonies whether they found anything he could sell on the internet. And that’s WTF #3. This seems like an oddly inefficient way in which to exploit your patients. I’d love to see this guy’s eBay store: “DEAD SQUIRREL – LIKE NEW, INSURANCE AVAILABLE.” “TORN CANDY WRAPPERS – LOT OF 12!”