Dead List Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released byHigh Octane Pictures
Written and directed by Holden Andrews (“Zander” & “Kush”), Ivan Asen (“Scott”), Victor Mathieu (“Jason” & “Bob”)
2018, 80 minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 1st, 2018
Deane Sullivan as Cal
Jan-David Soutar as Trevor
Josh Eichenbaum as Bob
Matt Fowler as Zander
Rob Healy as Kush
Eric Pierce as Jason
Nick Bandera as Scott (credited as Nick Franchik)
Holden Andrews as Karl
There is perhaps no other type of film that better represents the horror genre and the range of what makes it special, from the terrifying to the cringeworthy, than an anthology. They’re a personal weakness of mine. Creepshow and Creepshow 2 are sacred to me; I return to them so they can “center me” in much the same way go-karts “center” Randal in Clerks 2.
The anthology film is the perfect format for a group of young directors and writers like Holden Andrews, Ivan Asen, and Victor Mathieu to hone their craft. It allows you to tell a few different stories with a strong central theme (aka the wraparound story) to tie them all together. These three gentlemen have done a solid job of just that. Their only real constraints were budget and clarification.
Dead List isn’t a perfect film, but (again) they are honing their craft. Where they’ve missed the mark in this movie they’ve not missed through lack of effort or heart. The passion shines through, though. No doubt about that.
Cal (Deane Sullivan) is a struggling actor who is competing for a part in the new Martin Scorsese film with a group of friends and frenemies- roommate Trevor (Jan-David Soutar); pretty-boy stoner Kush (Rob Healy); timid Jason (Eric Pierce); cocky snake-in-the-grass Zander (Matt Fowler); leading man Scott (Nick Bandera); and polished veteran Bob (Josh Eichenbaum). They’d all kill to get the part. This is Hollywood, after all, and it’s a dog eat dog business. When a mysterious book bearing only an equally mysterious and ominous symbol on its fleshy cover literally falls out of the sky and lands on the windshield of his car, Cal may have (through his roommate’s help) uncovered a way to do away with his rivals and become the next big thing.
Each of the segments represents a name slashed into the pages of the book (“Zander”, “Scott”, “Jason”, “Kush”, and “Bob”). All will meet their demise in horrific ways to clear the way for Cal once they see the symbol from the book glowing somewhere on their flesh. There are some solid hits and wild misses in the five stories of gruesome death:
- “Zander”- His end is very Twilight Zone, and that’s the best thing about it. It’s very rushed, though. I didn’t stop to check how short it is compared to the other shorts, but it flies by from a pacing standpoint. I did love the concept that is very reminiscent of the “Time Out” segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie…that’s the one where the racist white man steps out of the bar into 1942 Germany as a hunted Jew.
- “Scott”- The weakest of the stories centers on the arrogant leading man’s reality-altering death inside a friend’s home. I’m not entirely sure what is even going on in this one, even with a rewind. It is a bit of a mess, though the inability to escape the house and the play with the auditory gives it a nice MC Escher on drugs vibe. Still, it just doesn’t connect with me.
- “Jason”- Here’s where they start to pick up steam. Jason and his friend, Karl, nearly hit a crazy (and exceptionally creepy) old lady in the road, so they take her back to the casa to call the cops and sort it out. This old bag is more evil than they bargained for, though. Freaky moments abound here. The old witch kind of got under my skin. I can’t lie.
- “Kush”- This is clearly where a chunk of the budget for SFX went to, and it was money well spent. Kush is the archetype of the California stoner, right down to his wavy blond hair and gold pot leaf necklace (a little on the nose, but I was smellin’ what they were cookin’). The Cali surf holds a creature no drug could prepare poor Kush for, and the result of its sting is goopy, gory as hell, and well shot. My favorite of the bunch by a country mile.
- “Bob”- Do you hate clowns? If you do, then just don’t watch it. Do you like cocaine and impersonations of Heath Ledger’s Joker? Then just watch it. I think I’ve stated my case here.
- “Cal & Trevor”- The wraparound finishes up in satisfactory and predictable fashion. The loose ends are tied up fairly well. The body twist / bone break kill has been done to death (thanks, Paranormal Activity movies!), but I got a HUGE kick out of their take on it. Style points there.
The budget is clearly on the low end, but they did good work in parlaying that into a nice ‘90s vibe (and made sure to let you know that’s what they were going for). It won’t win Oscars, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t entertained. These guys know their stuff, as they say- the intro credits are stylish in the vein of Halloween and the subtle genre nods are well placed. Keep an eye on these guys. This is a rough effort that speaks of a bright and bloody future.