Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'Before I Die' is a weak anthology

Before I Die (2003)
Starring: Dawn Murphy, David Lee, M. Catherine Holseybrook, Nancy Felciano, Phil Herman, Gusto Perez, and Brock Richards
Directors: Dave Castiglione and Dawn Murphy
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

I love anthology films because one can expect that some part of them is going to be good--if a particuarly segment is lame, that's okay, because it'll be short and there's promise of something better coming right up.

With "Before I Die", that promise is hinted at, but it never materializes. There's nothing in this film that rises above mediocre and boring.

"Before I Die" is a horror anthology film that consists of three stories and a framing sequence. The frame involves a short story writer (Herman) struggling to meet a deadline. As he comes up with ideas, and starts pounding his keyboard, the film relates the stories he write to us.

It's not a bad concept for a frame and it's a more natural-feeling way to present the stories than in many anthology films I've seen... heck, it's a better way than those used in some of my favorites, such as "The House that Dripped Blood". Unfortunately, the complete lack of energy that Phil Herman brings to the role of the writer manages to make the interludes a bit tedious, despite some interesting camerawork and smooth transitions.

The first story ("Time for Dessert") follows a woman (Holseybrook) and her chubby-chasing stalker (Perez) who is appalled that she seems be pick up every guy she meets but him. He finally gets his date with her, and uncovers her dark secret. While the attempt at presenting an overweight woman as sexy is something rarely seen, and I give the filmmakers a little consideration for that, there is virtually no story here, less tension, and long make-out scenes do not make for interesting viewing.

Next up, we have "The Last Resort", which is a tale of an average pair of newlyweds (Murphy and Lee) who find themselves as the only guests at a luxury resort that doesn't exist. This one had all the potential to be a fine ghost story, but it's potential is sapped by an overlong running that's padded with boring scenes of average honeymoon-couple lovemaking, bad camerawork, and even worse sound recording. My guess is the only microphone on-set was mounted on the Camcorder used to film the scenes, and ther are many times when it picks up so much ambient noise that the dialogue is nearly drowned out. The "shock ending" is also entirely too long in coming and is delivered in a painfully clumsy fashion. Still, there are a couple of moments when the potential that is hiding within this poorly done short manage to show themselves, and Murphy and Lee mostly do a decent job on the acting front.

Closing out "Before I Die", we have "Someone is Sleeping in My Bed." It's a confused mini-slasherflick where a maniac killer murders some trick-or-treaters, and then breaks into the house of a spicy dish (Feliciano). It's a weird little film, with dreams sequences, an odd phone call, and a strangulation murder that's done with as much style as can be expected from a film on this level. It might have actually been a worthwhile effort if someone had bothered writing a coherent script. I suppose they thought the bare skin would carry the day.

When "Before I Die" wrapped up (with a blending of the film's reality and fiction that is driven home so hard that I'm not sure if the filmmakers think their audience is stupid, of if they have no faith in their own abiliites to get their meaning across), I felt a mixture of disapointment and boredom. I doubt your reaction will be much different.

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