Wednesday, April 7, 2010

'Dead Body Man' is almost worthwhile

Dead Body Man (2004)
Starring: Eddie Benevich, Jessica Lynn Baum, and Ryan Cavalline
Director: Ryan Cavalline
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Willie (Benevich) wants nothing more than to sit on his couch and watch porn. Unfortunately, God is living in his closet, and He won’t give Willie a moment’s peace, constantly insisting that he capture sinners and kill them for Him. Will joining a support group for serial killers at the local community center give him the coping tools he needs, or is Willie doomed to never watch porn in peace again?

In every way, "Dead Body Man" is the best movie I've seen so far from Ryan Cavalline. It has all the makings of a truly twisted horror comedy, and it’s full of so many weird ideas that you’ll ask yourself more than once, “How do they come up with this stuff?”

From the movie’s “hero”--a mercurial delusional schizophrenic whose world may or may not be made up mostly of hallucinations--to the cannibal meat “distributor”, to the serial killer support group hosted by the local community center, to a last-minute plot-twist that’s both unexpected and in perfect keeping with the crazy, off-kilter tone of the entire film.

“Dead Body Man” is elevated further by its lead, Benevich, who not only shows himself to be a good actor in the film’s pre-title sequence, but who also displays a fine sense of comedic timing through the rest of the movie. Director Cavalline also steps in front of the camera to take a nicely done performance caricaturing the ultra-softie, ultra-permissive liberal social worker type, while Baum turns in a very interesting performance as the manifestation of Willie’s conscience. The fact that Willie lives on Elm Street and wears asweater identical to that worn by Freddy Kreuger from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies is also chuckle-worthy.

And, by now, you're probably wondering why I've given a Three rating to a film that I am saying so many nice things about. It's because it has the makings of a good horror comedy. The parts are here, the potential is here... but the way it gets used ulimately ends up in a movie that's just good enough to be included as a secondary feature in a Bad Movie Night, but not worth seeking out otherwise.

"Dead Body Man stars out strong with a spastic retard--um, sorry... a physically challenged differently abled man--picking up a hooker. When he gets her home, there's a sudden change, and the viewer quickly discovers what sort of twisted movie he's in for. And the last 15 or so minutes are so whiplash-crazy in their reversal and then re-reversal of audience expectations that I tip my hat toward Cavalline in the most respectful way. These bookends, with the murders and the cannibal flesh trading and the support group visits in the middle could have all added up to a very funny and very odd movie, but Cavalline botches the execution.

First, theres a problem with the way the murders occur in the film. They are redundant, too dragged out, and hampered by poor gore effects. After the first two, the rest make for pretty dull viewing. (It also doesn't help that they don't make a whole lot of sense... Willie shoots one victim repeated, yet later the victim is tied up and apparently unhurt.) The film would have been much better served with just one or two killings at Willie's house and the one that occurs in the garage of a fellow member of the serial killer support group.

The redundancy and dragged-out sense of the murder scenes aren't helped by the fact that they appear to be ad-libbed to a large extent. I may be blaming Benevich for something that should be put at Cavalline's door as the script-writer, but the repetativeness of the jokes and the inconsistencies in the "story" that Willie tells a couple of times feels like the director told Benevich to just "cut loose" and then never tried to reign him in or do additional takes in which he gave suggestions as to what Benevich should do with his performance. (I think the actors playing the victims had scripted lines to work off, and with only two exceptions, these are also redundant--the girl who asks Willie to kill her so she won't have to listen to his story is pretty funny.)

Basically, as good as I think Benevich is, he gives us too much of a good thing, and Cavalline doesn't step in to dial it back, either on-set or in the editing room. And, in the end, the potential that is here is smothered in repetitiveness and dragged down by an overlong running time. In fact, if re-edited by someone with a very firm hand and shortened to about 70-75 minutes, I think this could be an entertaining (if odd) horror comedy.

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