By Bea Harper
First I would like to announce that I am a fan of Lady Death’s journey as a character. When she first appeared in “Evil Ernie” she was just your token bad-girl cheesecake who lived only to serve Ernie’s fantasies- in other words Rush Limbaugh’s kinda gal. But, as time went on, Lady’s own story progressed and she became her own entity, and rather than remain the one-dimensional eye-candy, she became a full-fledged hero. Since then she has been given a total revamp in terms of origin, motivation and personality and if you ask me, she’s much better for it. When I heard they were making a Lady Death animated film, I won’t lie, I was somewhat excited and curious to see how this would pan out. Fast-forward to 2004 and I am a broken woman and I think I need a four-horned pony and two Nameless Wolves to cheer me up.
This movie SUCKS and not in a sexy vampire bite kind of way. This film is basically a car crash of ideas, terrible character design, crude writing that does this strong comic character absolutely no justice, except in the eyes of your horny 13-year-old brother. But do you want to know the absolute worst thing- this revision of Lady Death was written by her creator, Brian Pulido. Given this entire film covers the character’s origins, you’d think he would have gone back to clean up Lady’s history, but boy did he really slip on the banana peel here.
Hope is a young woman who lives in medieval Sweden in the 14th century who also happens to be the daughter of the fearsome Matthias who has been raising Hell during the Crusades who also happens to be none too popular with the residents of the village over which he presides. One night she stumbles across her father communing with the powers of darkness and discovers that her father is the Devil himself. Okay, so far, so good, it makes for an interesting and twisted dynamic considering in the comics, Lucifer had a hard-on for Lady like you wouldn’t believe and you know, would it really be a shock if the Devil wanted to hump his daughter? This back story is decent enough but the way it is told on-screen as well as the awful voice acting is a prelude to the salmagundious mess this movie will become. The villagers are also a party to Hope’s fateful discovery and are about to kill Matthias before he becomes Old Scratch himself and vanishes into Hell. Their blood high and their rage unsatisfied, they capture Hope and try her for being a witch and consorting with the Devil. Hope meets Pagan, Satan’s jester and lackey who tells her that she too has the power of the damned within her and says that her father is waiting for her to join him in Hell. She refuses and the following morning she is burned at the stake, and in a moment of panic, she entreats the forces of darkness to take her away. Now that sequence wasn’t too bad either and we get a nice disturbing descent into Hell and it’s not often we see something like that happen in a movie primarily because Hope has been hopelessly conflagrated. And that, folks, is perhaps what could be the most interesting part of the movie until the end credits. What follows is a dull, done-over, poorly realised, badly executed hero story of which Hope becomes Lady Death over a training montage when she rallies her allies and fights boring, forgettable battles. I have no idea what Pulido was thinking when he was given this opportunity other than to get some quick cash and remind everybody he was responsible for Lady Death’s impressive bust. He had the change to reinvent his creation, to make her even better than her comic counterpart, but no dice.
However, this isn’t all Pulido’s doing, in fact, you could have the most shoddy writing in the world but still make a decent looking movie, take the “Resident Evil” movies for example. Amongst their more dire sins and incomprehensibility, while they tend to over-rely on slow motion, visually they still look stunning, which is more than what I can say here. There is absolutely no effort in the character and background design and you can tell that the animators really couldn’t have cared less for what the end product would look like and you know a movie is in trouble when you see something like that. I think the only memo they got was “Make sure Lady’s bosom is huge and Cremator’s arms are thick” because that seems to be where most of the animation’s budget went. Tits and arms. Oh, who’s Cremator? Some dude who is Lady’s mentor who happens to look like a XXX version of He-Man, can’t say I cared much for him or anybody else in this movie. I didn’t so much hate any of the characters, I just didn’t care because those involved in the production didn’t. I for one am happy due to the fact voice actors are garnering more recognition these days, but I felt the voice cast here had absolutely no comprehension or appreciation for their characters. Considering Christine M. Auten voiced Lady, you’d think she’d bestow her avatar with the dominant strength that lady has, but she sounds like she is a first year theatre student reading from a script. Mike Kleinhenz is just as dispassionate in his role of Satan, and this is incredibly alarming- if you’re given the opportunity to give a voice to the Lord of Lies, you’d have the time of your life and go all out, but not here. There is no temptation, no danger, no corruption in Kleinhenz’s delivery and he doesn’t even want to try. The only VA who seemed to give two hoots was Andy McAvin’s Pagan and even he came off as lacklustre. There was a plethora of other demonic foes and allies too but for the life of me, I just couldn’t bother to tell you their names because they meant precisely JACK.
To rub even more scalding rock salt into this axe wound, the characters just aren’t given anything significant to do- Lady strides around in her trademark bikini and body armour with her hair mysteriously waving in every frame like a hair commercial, Cremator wields his hammer and Satan just sits on his throne, cheekbone resting upon a meaty fist. All of the time, I was shouting at the screen for them to do a dance, make a sandwich, anything rather than just stand around like a badly drawn hellish IKEA commercial.
And the music? What? There was music? I sure as hell don’t remember any because I was trying to find some sort of decent progress on the drama front, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume that it was one of the most tiresome, dead horse beating scores to be committed to an animated soundtrack.
I honest to goodness wanted to enjoy this movie, I never went into it intending to tear it apart and to it’s credit it had some spectres of good ideas floating around in the melting pot, but ultimately this was a tragedy of Greek proportions because there was no focus, no fervour, no dedication and absolutely no inspiration in this film. There were a variety of missed opportunities and it appears that either nobody noticed this or they just didn’t have a care to remedy it. It also comes of no surprise that A.D Vision which distributed the movie is now defunct given they decided it would be a masterstroke to let this mess loose on the masses when it should have either been redone or cut to shreds and burned in a rubbish bin. To everybody involved- all of you have the perfect opportunity to help continue the reign of Lady Death, but instead you gave us Lady Dead.