Hellish action and some good drama give Lady Death potential, but it falls just a bit short.
What They Say
A powerful story of innocence lost, savage betrayal and glorious rebirth, Lady Death begins in 15th Century Sweden, where Hope, the beautiful daughter of Matthias - a skilled mercenary who is in actuality Lucifer, the Lord of Lies - is accused of being the devil's consort following a hellish incident witnessed by local villagers.
Sentenced by the town priest to be burned at the stake, Hope is visited by the malevolent Pagan as she writhes in pain. Unable to think clearly, she accepts Lucifer's offer of life in Hell over a hideously painful death... only to discover that there are far worse fates than dying.
Lucifer's grand plan to corrupt a soul of pure innocence meets unanticipated resistance, as Hope rejects Lucifer's scheme and eventually finds herself transformed into the powerful warrior Lady Death, who challenges the Lord of Lies for control of Hell itself.
Being an OEL title, this DVD is only offered with an English track, which is in 5.1. There are subtitles for the hearing impaired, but the only language is English. The mix is very well done, with plenty of left/right and front/back directionality, and the voice acting is top notch. The dialogue stays centered, but the various effects are all over the place, allowing for some nice immersion.
The video grade is one that I had trouble giving top marks to. The animation quality is impeccable and the transfer is gorgeous. My problem is with the design. I loved both the character designs and the background imagery—the problem is that I loved them both individually. In motion, it really felt that the foreground images were independent of the backgrounds; they did not blend very well to me. Since this is something that might vary with people, and since everything else was done so well, I gave it the full grade, but be warned that your mileage might vary.
Lady Death has a fairly standard amaray packaging. The front has an image of a bloody Lady Death wielding her father’s sword, with some screen shots, a movie summary, and technical details on the back. This is all set to a dark motif of what I can only call death cult images. It looks nice, and fits the title well, but there is nothing special about it.
The menu for this release is pretty well done. It opens with some animatics of flying bats as it swoops down onto a shot of a graveyard, where a skeleton crawls from the ground and reaches out towards the viewer. This is set against a stormy night background, and some tense music plays in the background. The selections are offered in white, with the highlight creating an outline around the text, making it easy to see. If I were to make it better, I might have placed the selections on the gravestones, but this is really well done as it is.
There are some nice extras on this release. First are two featurettes: ‘Visions of Hell’ and ‘Animating Death.’ These sections are both behind-the-scenes; ‘Visions of Hell’ shows the movie being made from concept to completion, while ‘Animating Death’ is a series of interviews from the production team. There is also a feature length commentary from the director, Andrew Orjuela. All three add some nice value to the release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
What would you do if you were the only daughter of a Lord committed to dark powers, and his treachery cost you your innocence and life? If you said ‘accept the dark powers of Hell so that you can become a sexy, scantily clad agent of Death allowing you to exact revenge on your demonic father,’ then Lady Death might be just the movie for you.
Set in the fifteenth century, Lady Death follows the story of Hope. She has lived her life in the grace of God and has a wonderful young fiancé; she has a wonderful outlook for her future. Unfortunately, her father—the local ruling lord—is obsessed with power, and is doing war on anybody and everybody he can find. When his war takes away the life of her paramour, Hope tried to confront her father, only to find out a horrible truth: her father is really Lucifer, the Lord of Lies. When the power of a priest banishes Lucifer back to Hell, Hope is left to be the sacrifice to her father’s sins.
Fearing the horror of a heretic’s death, Hope accepts the grace of her father while burning at the stake, and descends to Hell to join him. However, when she sees what he has done with both her fallen love and her long lost mother, Hope vows to fight back. With the help of the outcast, Cremator, Hope harnesses the power of Hell to become The Lady Death, and she raises her own army of hellish minions to attempt to dethrone her father and release his prisoners. Now she just has to find a balance between her need for vengeance and the last vestiges of her humanity before she succumbs to the evil she is attempting to fight.
Based off the comic series by Brian Pulido, as a concept, Lady Death has a lot going for it. It does a pretty good job building up sympathy for Hope and her situation, and the dynamic between her and her father is pretty interesting. There is plenty of good action, and the design of the characters and landscapes are great. And I love the irony behind the fact that Lady Death’s real name is ‘Hope.’ That just makes me chuckle.
My problem with Lady Death is that I do not feel that it goes far enough. This is definitely a title where I think a short TV series would have done it wonders. I wanted more building up of ‘Lord Father the Jackass’ to really hammer home Hope’s hopeless situation (oh the irony…). I want her to spend more time in Hell learning the ropes before she is fully vested as Lady Death. It seems that the moment she decided to accept her situation, she is suddenly all powerful. I even want to see Lady Death have to confront the priest who hurriedly denounced her as a witch and burned her at the stake. Although he was attempting to follow what he thought to be the will of God, I do feel that some form of retribution was in order, even if it was just a “see what you have done to me” sort of rebuke. And frankly, I wanted more of a conflict between Lady Death and Lucifer. For the buildup that theirs is a titanic struggle, there is not a whole lot to it, and never does it feel like Lady Death is in any danger.
As it is, Lady Death is fine, but it just feels like it was cut off at the knees. There really is a lot of interesting things happening, but eighty minutes was just not enough for me to really get a handle on it all. It felt as if Lady Death were nothing more than fanservice for the comic’s readers. If I were to go back and read the comic, then maybe more of the movie would jump out at me; as a standalone title, though, it just does not feel fully fleshed out.
Lady Death was a movie that I wanted to like much more than I did. That is not to say that I did not enjoy what was here, but I wanted more. Nothing about it felt properly explored, and the story was complex enough that I think it would have worked well as a short series. It might be a better movie if you have read the comic it is based on, but by itself, it feels like the subject matter is shortchanged. Still, it is decent for what it is. Mildly recommended.
English 5.1 Language, Featurettes, Audio Commentary
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System