'Legion of the Dead' is the second of Ittenbach's splatter cannons to be made globally accessible via an Anchor Bay release; the other being the equally gruesome 'Beyond the Limits'. If you are familiar with the director's work, which, if you call yourself a splatter fan you should be, you will know that gore is the strong point of his movies, Sadly often, and I don't feel its too out of place to say, you have to make exceptions for some of the less positive aspects, often the acting and plot; perhaps a reason most of his back catalogue has remained on smaller labels.
I was also intending to view LOTD with equal leniency but was more than pleasantly surprised to be viewing a movie which was not only excessively gory, but witty, well scripted and most surprising of all, well acted. Ittenbach really hit the nail on the head with this release.
The plot, as with all of his movies, is an absurd and imaginative one. Two guys on the down and out decide to leave smallsville and go where the road takes them, however, after being picked up by a psychopath they soon realise that their luck is not set to change any time soon. In the mean time two representatives of 'The Legion' are travelling around 'recruiting' people for their un-dead army by means of removing their heart and planting their evil seed within. The guys escape the psychopath and find themselves diverted to lively bar where the girl of their dreams catches their eye, however, she is not all she seems and it turns out that the girl is in fact the one 'person' that the legions leader is amassing an army to capture.
The plot in itself is a passable affair, but nothing to rave about, however, the way the story unfurls is what keeps it fresh, interesting and fast paced. For the first hour of the movie the two story lines take it in subsequent turns to be told. The sub-plot of the hitch-hikers and the serial killer takes on a life of it's own with the ramblings of the psychopath showcasing some amusing dialogue. The story of the un-dead recruiting was as equally entertaining showing off frequent amounts of the high quality splatter which I have come to expect from Ittenbach.
Whilst in most horror a dialogue driven plot can often kill a movie, the script in this one is as equally and entertaining as the gore... well almost. The script was genuinely amusing and even made me laugh out loud at times. The characters too, whilst being linearly pun driven, seemed to suit the actors playing them, which meant that for once I can actually say that the acting was good; another rarity in splatter.
Finally, with all of the above, the excellent quality, and quantity of the gore finished off the package nicely. I don't think it would be possible for me to list all of the gore scenes, there are a lot, in fact excessive would probably be the best adjective to use here. There is plenty of variation throughout the movie ranging from blood spraying stabbings, to dismemberment, explosive gunshot wounds, to exploding people, and it's all shown in all its gory glory with excellent effects and no irritating camera cuts. God only knows how long the makeup effects guys spend on the various wounds shown in these sorts of films, but the aftermath effects are well worth it, particularly in the bar-room-shoot-out which rivals that of the one raved about in 'Dead or Alive'.
The only niggle I do have with the movie, and it is a minor one, but needs mentioning is that, after the first hour, and the aforementioned bar room shoot-out there is ten or so minutes of story telling with some pretty random bits needed to tie up loose ends. Whilst it did make sense, there are some parts which do seem a little silly, and considering the blistering pace of the first hour or so the movie did seem to drag a little here, causing the ending to feel a little lacklustre. As I said, it's very minor, but I do try to be as critical as I can be with these reviews.
Overall this for me is a splatter movie which is hard to fault, in fact in terms of how good it is, has inspired me to search the rest of Ittenbach's varied back catalogue. Naturally you will see a lot of criticism surrounding this movie, I swear is don't understand people who watch gore movies, then complain that its just gory and not scary :s, muppets. Get your mates round, have a few beers and enjoy.