Monday, July 25, 2011

Die Now or Live Forever – review

Director: Dominic Fera

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

I had not heard of Dominic Fera but it seems he is a YouTube filmmaker with a fair youth following. I guess that’s why this (at the time of review) had such a high IMDb rating (9.5) with three gushing reviews – either that or the votes were mainly from friends. I sat ready to dislike Fera's short film foray into the vampire genre…

But you know what, whilst it doesn’t deserve that high a score, it deserves a good review. It turned out to be a professionally put together piece of work, with one or two minor grumbles to be fair, but they were minor and it had less flaws than some notable, high budget professional films.

Seth King as Michael
It begins with Michael Sphenson (Seth King) burying his pet lizard, Larry, in the garden. Michael seems somewhat philosophical about the lizard’s death but his mum (Pat Obst) suggests that, as she is taking his brother (William Gabriele Obst) to her sister’s for Halloween (better trick or treating is to be had in that neighbourhood) he might have some friends over – but no beer.

Anthony Canonica as Greg
So immediately, that night, Michael, Dave (Anthony Cardona) and Greg (Anthony Canonica) crack open beers. Greg was meant to have brought cards but hasn’t and the viewer is immediately struck by how natural the young actors seem to be and how well observed the dialogue is, flowing well and seeming perfectly realistic. Michael has cards and so they cut the pack – Greg gets the lowest card and he is it for a Halloween prank.

watching Greg head for his dare
They go to Michael’s car – noticing a mover’s van next door. Who moves in at night? The question gets the obvious response of 'a vampire'. They reach a supposedly empty house and Greg has to go in with a spray can and get a photo of his artwork. After he leaves the car Dave and Michael notice a car outside but Michael rationalises that it can’t be anything to do with the house Greg has gone in, can it?

the coffin
Greg enters the house by the basement and, once in, sees a coffin (with an odd looking cross ordaining the lid). A hand emerges and Greg runs. In the car he is screaming about the living dead – Michael and Dave take it as a wind up. A bat hits the window and Greg freaks, there is a sound like someone on the car roof and then a figure knocks on the driver's window. They drive off, so the figure enters the parked car and follows. They manage to lose the car and get home, only to see it come down the street and park next door to Michael’s house.

dead Dave
The guys get inside but Dave gets a call from his girlfriend and goes outside to take it. There is a knock on the door. Michael answers it and stands face to face with Drake (Dominic Fera), his new neighbour. He asks to be invited in. Michael refuses, Greg confirms that it is the guy from the coffin (he recognises the watch) and then the body of Dave appears on the back patio. Of course, Drake has received no invitation in… that is until a panicked Greg runs outside and is captured, forcing Michael to issue the invitation…

burned by a sun lamp
One of the neat things about this was that part of me was wondering whether the story was going to turn into a Halloween prank story (with Dave and either Greg or Michael in on it) up until quite late in. I will confirm Drake is a vampire so that I can discuss the lore. We discover that garlic is an issue and that sunlight will kill a vampire in this. We also discover that one bite will turn (with the assumption that this is only if the victim survives the attack). A vampire can turn to mist and the reformation was very neatly carried off given the budget.

Dominic Fera as Drake
I mentioned how natural the boys seemed. Fera, for his own dialogue, wrote a witty, urbane dialogue for the character that worked really well. The actual filming looks very professional but I mentioned a couple of gripes. One was in the story… there seemed no logical reason as to why the creature in the basement of a house a car drive away would happen to be the person moving in next door and perhaps that needed a bridge in the narrative. The opening scene could really have used a tripod as the camera work was a tad shaky – though that was not an issue through the rest of the film. Minor issues indeed.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable this short was. The main reason was the performances that delivered the well-constructed dialogue. 7 out of 10.

The IMDb page is here.


Chris Hirtzel said...

I am a personal fan of Fera and his work, this especially. However I have one more issue in dialogue I'd like to put out. Keep in mind, this could have been part of Dom's original plan but it bugs me nonetheless. The theme of Drake's character seems to be that the supernatural is only what humans will call supernatural. Drake's speech about human normality was gripping and intelligent, and it felt like I was listening to a lecture in a college philosophy class, but it felt a little unprecedented. I didn't really see a reason for him to say it other than to show off his philosophy skills, because the boys had shown now disbelief at all. That could have been an issue, but it wasn't that big of a deal.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Chris, I think you raise a fair point.

I would say that I think the dialogue is still, compared to much that flashes across my screen, very good but your point is very valid.