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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Man & His Murder: Mystery and Darkness in "Hello, My Name Is Death"

"HELLO, MY NAME IS DEATH" (2015)
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Length- 8:12
Company: Red Maple Media

A man (Andre Herzegovitch) wakes up alone in a dark room, sitting in a chair, with no idea how he got there or what happened to him last night.  Or yesterday morning.  Or whenever IT happened, whatever it was.

Then, Death (Nileja James) appears, and she reveals that the man is dead, and that he has one chance to save his life: determine which important woman in his life shot him dead.

Is it his wife (Karah Serine)?  His daughter (Sarah O'Sullivan)?

He has six minutes and sixty six seconds (Filmmakers: I see what'cha did there) to decide.

Tick tock . . .


SURREAL TERROR

"Hello, My Name is Death" is written, directed and produced by Ziyad Saadi.  It's a short film that hints at a sort of Jacob's Ladder-style psychological assault on the senses.  The main difference here is that the emphasis is not on the terror, but on the mystery: who killed the man?

And the second mystery is just as interesting . . . why did the killer kill him?

The mystery could have been a strength, but unfortunately we're rattled at from all directions by sound bytes that literally are repeated so many times I lost count.  Without clues, these oddball quotes don't add up to anything, and the mystery's solution is never satisfactorily delivered to the audience.

WORDS . . . MORE WORDS . . .                                                            

The movie clocks in at eight minutes and some change with credits, but the film proper only takes about five and a half to conclude.  Even so, with all the repetition, my patience wore thin.

The film itself is shot well.  Director of photography Neal Todnem and Saadi make sure the video looks good and the sound department does a good job.  The performances are, by and large, effective.

But with the ambiguous conclusion, I couldn't help but feel like I watched five and a half minutes of filler -- and that's too bad, because there was an interesting story in there that I would have liked to have seen resolved.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 1.5 / 5.  Man wakes up, people chatter the same five lines at him over and over and over again.  That's essentially the events shown onscreen, and it gets old extremely fast.  Even so, there's an interesting and disturbing undertone that's never addressed, and that's why I gave the added half point to this score.
Directing: 3 / 5.  There's only so much you can do with what Saadi has in this film, but he pulls out all the stops.  We have intriguing close-ups, interesting camera angles, and an exterior location that looks beautiful.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Dannell A. Matonen handled editing duties for this film, and cuts it together like a champ.  There are a lot of effects laid onto the audio too in post-production
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  Jorge Palomo was sound designer and the composer behind the sparse score, and it all sounds very good.
Acting: 3 / 5.   Herzegovitch is credible, and Serine comes off as probably the most believable of the four actors.  James makes for an interesting Death.  O'Sullivan sounds deadpan for the majority of her lines.  That might have been an intentional directorial decision, so I did not take away any points for that.

Final Grade: 2.8 / 5.  

Don't forget to check out "Hello, My Name is Death" when it sees release online!  As soon as I receive word, I'll post the link right here!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!