Dead And Gone
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Dead And Gone

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The story is as old as time; a person wants to get rid of their spouse and plots what they hope will be the perfect murder. This theme is so universal that it has been used to drive just about every genre known in fiction. It can be played for laughs, used as the basis for a taut thriller or a good old fashion mystery. Now there is a slightly different spin on the spousal murder theme, a horror flick. Many film makers that are new to the business and go the independent film route are drawn to horror flicks. More often than not they retreat the same old story of a group of annoying twenty-somethings trapped in a remote location being picked off one by one by a supernatural killer. This format is hackney but since the combination of sex, drugs and violence is appealing to the target audience of high school and college aged guys the films make money. It doesn’t take much to bring the film into profits since they are typically done with a miniscule budget and shooting schedule measured in a small number of days. Another popular variation is the zombie flick. There is nothing like the walking undead on a murderous rampage to get the audience going. The new film ‘Dead and Gone’ by Yossi Sasson takes many of the elements of these films and recombines them into a thrill ride that is great fun to watch. You may get the nagging feeling that you have seem parts before but they are presented in such a way as to add the right touch of freshness to the mix.

This may be the first screenplay offered up by Harry Shannon but he is a man of considerable experience in the horror genre. He has been a successful novelist in the genre for many years now with his books well received by the critics and public. He is a man of many talents including composing and performing music. His novels cover topics that range from suspense, mystery and even a werewolf or two thrown in for good measure. With such a versatile background this film could not do better in the script department. Shannon wrote the theme song for the flick and took a turn in front of the camera. He provides the first twist in the plot by having the trophy spouse as the husband. The couple on the verge of finical ruin so he takes his comatose wife up to a remote cabin in the woods, something he won in a poker game. Naturally, as things go in stories like this, the area has a bad reputation. Awhile back a man went crazy in that cabin and killed his family. The isolation begins to wear on the man until he is not sure what is real and what just his overactive imagination. This is one aspect of the story that sets it above the pack. There are elements of a psychological thriller blended in that keeps the audience constantly guessing as to what will happen next. Shannon was influenced by the old EC horror comic that infused dark humor into the stories. He takes a similar approach here breaking up the tension with such black comedy. This doesn’t impede the movement of the plot it just gives the audience a little change of pace and a chance to catch their breath between the spookier parts. His characters are mostly fully fleshed out and believable with enough of their own back stories to make them interesting. This is a refreshing change from the cardboard cut outs in so many horror flicks of late.

This film is the directorial debut for Yossi Sasson but you would never guess it. He has a natural knack for this kind of work. While many of his contemporaries try to shove in as many film school lighting and camera tricks possible in their freshman opus Sasson remains true to the real impact of the genre, the scare. He has a straightforward style that lets the story unfold on its own without the prodding of the director. He seems to trust that the actors are professional and will give a good representation of the characters in the script. This is a man with style and an eye for framing each scene to near perfection. He also showed his commitment to the film by getting some of the best possible crew members to work on it. The music was scored by Harry Manfredini who did most of the ‘Friday the 13th’ flicks as well as a legion of other horror flicks. He knows of to foster the dark mood with his music. The makeup is great here, far better than the usual Indy horror flick. This is no surprise since they were supervised and produced by Dan Crawley. He has worked on a variety of projects that include the television horror series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Angel’, and the recent mainstream thriller ‘Awake’. He also did special effects for ‘World Trade Center’ and ‘Apocalypto’.

Jack Wade (Quentin Jones) is a struggling actor trying to catch a break in his career. His life is not exactly going as planned. He is basically a kept man, the trophy younger husband of Frankie (Kathrine Bates) a former studio executive. She is currently in a coma and the money is drying up fast. The only real asset that Jack has is a cabin in Nevada he won in a poker game. He decides to take Frankie out to that location where he can killer her and make his financial situation better once he cashes the insurance check. The film opens with a flashback to forty years ago. A man has gone off the deep end. He has his wife bound and gagged in the kitchen. He promises to make it fast and goes into the bedrooms to kill their children. He returns to shoot his wife and as the record player plays ‘Forty Years of Pain’ he sits down, places the gun in his own mouth and pulls the trigger. Guess what, this is the same cabin that Jack is taking is wife to. Once he manages to dodge all the people he owes and gets to the cabin he tries to settle in. His only real human contact now is the Constable Kate Eidson (Gillian Shure). He tries to be flirtatious but there is the unconscious wife back in the cabin. He eventually gets up the nerve to smother Frankie hoping to put the unpleasantness behind him. Unfortunately for him it is only the start. He begins to believe that Frankie is not actually dead. The isolation is getting to him so he is no longer sure of what is real and what is just his nerves and guilt.

Quentin Jones does well as the husband who wants to be a widower. He doesn’t come across as too disgusting which would be the more common way to go. Instead there is a sad touch to his presentation. He just wants to get out from under the crushing debt and his wife is in a coma anyway. Gillian Shure adds excellent depth to her role as Kate. Is is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the military. She is now unable to even carry a gun. These are human beings not the typical one dimensional character that have become standard for horror flicks.

Lion’s Gate is one of the best sources for little independent flick especially in the horror genre. This is one that you most likely never heard of but do yourself a favor and give it try, you will not be disappointed.

Posted 05/26/08

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