Dead List, 2018.
Directed by Victor Mathieu, Ivan Asen and Holden Andrews.
Starring Matt Fowler, Nick Bandera, Holden Andrews, Rob Healy, Josh Eichenbaum, Eric Pierce, and Susan Stangl.
A group of actors all vying for the same role start to go missing in mysterious ways. An occult book detailing their names acts as check list for the gruesome killings.
Anthology films work brilliantly within the horror genre. They are a great way of detailing different kinds of stories, scenes, and film-making styles. Think of recent examples like the V/H/S films, The ABC’s of Death or going further back the Stephen King anthology Cat’s Eye or any number of Hammer Horror collections. When they work well, they’re gripping and deliver a punch like no other.
Dead List is an intriguing low budget foray into the anthology world. The segments are all linked by the central premise of a collection of actors – some friends, some not so friendly – who are all competing for the same job; a new Scorsese production. They’re all at different stages of success in their careers, some scoring regular work, and some like the main player Cal, desperate for anything.
This desperation is at the heart of the linking story, concentrating on Cal and his flatmate conjuring up a demonic spell to wipe out the competition. This spell, framed in a cursed book – the ‘Dead List’ of the title – is a checklist of the pair’s acquaintances and friends next in line to be bumped off.
These deaths form the separate chapters of the anthology. Some more imaginative than others. I found the first two shorter scenes the most interesting as they avoided cliche and kept the action brief and to the point.
The first focuses on an actor driving down the road. After making some calls to people in the car, the sign of the ‘Dead List’ shows up on screen. He has been marked for death, and in a fairly daring move for a VOD horror/comedy, he looks up to the mirror and sees that the colour of his face has changed. What follows is a depressing and shocking piece of horror, which makes even more of an impact due to its brevity and mystery.
The second uses some clever camera techniques to illustrate a maze of interior walls and doors. The effect is a surreal nightmare, and it is a good use of the format. The character marked for the dead list in this one is an arrogant so and so who gets his senses of hearing royally messed up, and finds that he is trapped inside his apartment. Again, the brevity and lack of outside information is the key to this one’s success.
When the segments become longer and go for some slapstick style laughs, such as an evil old lady/witch possessing two friends, or the drugged up clown actor (initially amusing, but getting slightly tiresome after a full ten minutes of Pennywise from It style gurning) the whole film loses some of its appeal.
The framing story of competing actors is in itself worth some laughs, but it just isn’t strong enough to keep the whole production going.
That being said, the film has some nice touches, such as the flying book and demonic giggling heard as it travels through the air in speeded up style (a nod to Sam Raimi and the Evil Dead movies, I think). The decomposition of the surfer/drug dealer/actor in the fourth segment is also pretty well done visually and shows an ambitious side to this somewhat disjointed and chaotic project. But it’s an anthology movie, and chaos and different ideas is a good thing in projects like these. It’s also a good idea to keep the stories short, for a greater impact.
Dead List is available on VOD.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.