The Supernaturals (1986)

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I was always fascinated by this movie when I stumbled upon it in magazines back in the 1980s. I never saw cit back then, but I liked its poster and a movie about confederate zombies, well, that just has to be good, right? The reviews of it I read were all pretty negative, but I didn’t care. I just had to see “The Supernaturals”.

And now I’ve seen it.

The critics 25 years ago were right.

It all starts pretty good. The opening titles play against photos from the Civil War and the first credit belongs to legendary Republic Pictures. Then follows a prologue, which also is quite decent. It’s 1865 ans a handful of confederate soldiers have been captured by the Yankees. The gray coats are forced to walk across a mine field (I didn’t know they had mine fields in the Civil War!) and all of them are killed — except for a little boy. An eerie wind sweeps the area and the boy’s hand starts glowing…

…And then we jump to present day. Present as in 1986. Nichelle Nichols of “Star Trek” fame, and who’s, ahem, gained weight since the ‘60s, plays the tough Sergeant Leona Hawkins, who’s taking her (very small) platoon of soldiers on a training exercise in some woods in the deep South. It’s the usual bunch of guys; the nice one, the asshole and so on, plus one girl played by Talia Balsam — an actress who’s latest movie is “No Strings Attached” which I’m incidentally is going to see later the very same day I’m writing this.

One of the soldiers find an old skull buried in the woods, and another one finds it strange that there’s a wind blowing from the center of a field and out.

What’s even weirder is that a couple of confederate zombies appear during the night (yes, just a couple, there doesn’t seem to be very many of them) and start killing the poor modern day soldiers. The Southerners are stilled pissed off at the Yankees, it seems.

Director Armand Mastroianni started his career making horror movies like “He Knows You’re Alone” and “Cameron’s Closet”, but he’s mainly worked with TV; he’s directed countless TV-movies and episodes of shows like “Tales from the Dark Side”, “War of the Worlds” and “Friday the 13th – The Series”. And “The Supernaturals” kind of looks like a TV-movie.

It’s rather competently made, it has decent production values, the acting is okay, the cinematography is not bad, and the musical score is pretty good. But the movie is very, very lame. As I mentioned, there are hardly any zombies in it — and when they appear, we hardly get to see them, we see their silhouettes, but that’s about it. And most of the killings — if not all of them — are off screen! A very stupid idea. If you rent a zombie movie, you want to seem zombies ripping people apart and eating them, and you want to see zombies getting shot in the head. “The Supernaturals” doesn’t deliver at all when it comes to scares, gore and violence.

The screenplay was co-written by Joel Soisson, who should’ve known better. Soisson has directed movies like “Maniac Cop 3” (he stepped in when William Lustig left) and a couple of sequels to “The Prophecy”, and he’s written “Trick or Treat” (the heavy metal horror movie), “Dracula 2000” and its sequels, “Hollow Man 2” and lots more. All of them better than “The Supernaturals”.

I don’t understand how you can fail when you make a movie about Civil War zombies out for revenge, but somehow, this movie does. The ending is really lousy.

But the big question is: how come I still found this movie quite likable, despite my complaints?



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