Dead List – David Pitt Review
Dead List review by David Pitt
High Octane Pictures
Written and directed by Holden Andrews, Ivan Asen, and Victor Mathieu
A handful of struggling actors are up for the same part. One of them, more desperate than the others, uses – and just go with this, don’t ask questions – a magical book to eliminate the competition. In a series of (mostly) self-contained segments, the cast is dispensed with in rather imaginatively brutal ways.
Dead List, from High Octane Pictures, is a nifty anthology (the magical-book gimmick is a framing device) with good production values, a script that sounds – and indeed might have been – spontaneous and improvised, and natural, realistic performances.
Because the five segments are directed by three different people (Andrews and Mathieu direct two segments each; Asen does one), the movie has a nice variety of camerawork, tone and visual styles. This sometimes has a jarring effect – a gruesome horror segment followed by a segment that is very nearly a comedy, for example – but this works in the movie’s favour, keeping us on edge, never sure what to expect.
The movie relies on practical effects, rather than expensive computer wizardry, and for the most part the effects work is unobtrusive, although there’s one bit involving a guy being chased by a string of knotted-together handkerchiefs – warning: if clowns scare you, maybe close your eyes during this segment — that is rather too obviously an effect you could do yourself with some handkerchiefs and fishing line.
On the other hand, there is a terrific, gore-filled transformation scene whose makeup work rivals anything you’ll see in a big-budget horror film. Seriously: it’s worth seeing Dead List just for this scene. It’s terrifying and revolting and bloody and completely believable.
What impresses me most about the movie is this: it’s ambitious. The producers (who are also the directors, plus a few other people) clearly had little money to work with, but the movie doesn’t look cheap, or slick, or amateurish. I’d say these guys wanted to do big things with small money, to make an inexpensive horror movie that delivered the same kinds of scares and gut-churning moments as the big-budget flicks do, and I’d say they nailed it. Very nicely done.