Friday, November 07, 2014

The Dying – review

Director: David P. Nicholson

Release Date: 1997

Contains spoilers

The Dying is somewhat of an anachronism in that it is a feature that was shot on 16mm back in the late nineties. It has been released to buy on DVD straight from Puzzlemore Studios (at a rather bargain price) but they have also put the film on YouTube to watch for free with a tip jar over at their studio. However I am unsure as to whether the film was distributed widely, or at all, back in the day.

As such, when I started to watch the film, I was unaware that it had been filmed in the nineties and one of my first reactions was to think how well they had given it an older feel! Perhaps this added to my enjoyment of the movie. The film has problems, of that there is no doubt, mainly in exposition but it is still enjoyable and we’ll get to the problems soon enough.

Scott Pflanz as Fred
The film starts with Fred (Scott Pflanz) driving his car and trying to have a smoke. Later we will discover that he is a foul mouthed young man whose every second word is, almost literally, fuck. A woman (Robinson Sandy) runs in front of the car, followed by a man, Frank (Michael W. Mahoney). Soon Fred is gathering mallet and stake and chasing after. This is one of the exposition failings – we never discover why Fred knows about vampires nor why he is hunting them.

He reaches Frank, who is feeding and looks up at the hunter dismissively. Suddenly Fred is aware that a second man, Dean (Gregory Nunn), is behind him. He drops the stake and runs, getting to his car. He is trying to start it when Frank jumps onto the bonnet and then off again. Fred drives away. At home he angrily whittles new stakes before going to sleep.

body in the bed
In the morning he awakens and finds his alcoholic Ma (Sarah Strauss) asleep on the sofa. He goes back to where the woman was attacked but her corpse is not there and was never found – he does find a pendant (there is very little done with this in plot). He gets home, falls asleep, has a dream of the cemetery and then spills his beer down himself. Going to his room to change he discovers the victim dead in his bed. In a panic he drags her out to his car (its daytime) and Frank is there. He taunts the would be hunter and leaves.

Frank staked
Fred is driving off with her in the front seat when he sees Frank in his mirror, near the house again. He runs back and finds the vampire has attacked his Ma. They fight and Frank is clearly stronger but eventually Fred cuts the vampire’s throat – which seems to have no effect – and then stakes him. However the cops have found the body in his car and with his Ma dead and Frank’s body things are not looking good.

Sarah and Dean
Normally I would leave things here plot-wise but I have to mention that Frank does not stay dead – though why that is the case we are not told as he awakens with the stake still in him. This is more confusing when he finds Dean, who turns out to be his son, and we discover that they are both born vampires. Dean has just got it together with his ex, Sara (Rebekka Grella) – she is human but is carrying his child (later in the film we see her feeding the baby by cutting her breast).

Helene Colaizzi as Dawn
Other bits that carried little exposition were around an attack on a girl named Lori (Lisa Ann Frisone). She is presumed dead by the vampires but is not and this leads to a psychic link between her and Frank – for no given reason. She was rescued by a woman named Dawn (Helene Colaizzi) and no background exposition is given for her in a meaningful way either. So, as you can see, there are plenty of story issues. Yet the film runs fine despite this – you are just left with several question marks.

whittling a stake
The acting is strangely competent, given the very amateur nature of the film (most actors in it only made this film). Scott Pflanz’s sweary dialogue sounds clunky and yet he somehow manages to come across as very natural in it, for instance. The effects are surprisingly good and the filming method makes the thing feel right. Night-time lighting is surprisingly accomplished, all things considered, and moments of the soundtrack work very well.

Michael W. Mahoney as Frank
This is like walking into the halcyon days of straight to video horror because it is exactly what it is. Perhaps my feelings were bolstered by the fact I assumed it to be a very authentic looking modern take on it, but nevertheless this is what filmmakers looking for a retro style are often grasping for. As such it is greater than the sum of its parts (and greater than the sum of Frank’s mullet). 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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