Vanessa Roman's “Play Dead” screened at Orlando's Freak Show Film Festival last year, and unfortunately I must've been too preoccupied with booze, sunshine, and a wonderful lack of the cold, wet, white stuff (I was after all in Florida, missing the beginning of one of those frigid winters we Canadians all know and love), because I somehow managed to miss the Freak Show screening of “Play Dead”. I was all the more upset with myself upon finding out that the short was tied to Pirate Pictures (“Shadowland”), and yet even more upset with myself now, after watching it numerous times, as it is a well-produced, and very entertaining short.
The film's story is simple enough, getting from point A to B with little or no filler or additional scenes thrown in unnecessarily. Each scene adds something to the story, and honestly, I wouldn't disagree with the film being even a little bit longer. The film works so well that I simply couldn't object to more of the same. From beginning to 'tongue-in-cheek' end, it's a fun short that never outstays its welcome, even at 33 minutes long, which makes it the longest short I've ever had the pleasure to review.
A good part of the reason that the film is so enjoyable, is that the cast is really fun to watch. Everyone has fun with their parts, and it definitely shows. There are moments when the dialogue is not handled extremely well, and a few moments when characters are given some unimaginative dialogue, such as a security guard screaming “You got nothin' on me... Nothin'!”, as he exits what is assumed to be a murder interrogation. These moments however, are rare, and are saved by the film's most impressive actress, the young Marissa Roman. Normally, I would be very turned off of a film, knowing that the lead actress was the daughter of the director. However, in the case of “Play Dead”, I did not find this out until after my initial viewing, yet I would have been terribly mistaken. The young Marissa Roman is, without question, the strongest actor in the film. She gives a completely natural and enjoyable performance, and I would offer that I've never seen a performance like this from a young actor/actress in an independent film.
Technically, the film is marvellous. From its opening sequence, available below, to its close, the film is incredibly polished in all technical aspects. The editing, lighting and camerawork are nothing short of incredible, suggesting a much 'bigger' film than an independent short. The outdoor scenes, in particular those that take place at night, are breathtaking, with night-time sequences bathed in thick blue (moon)lighting. These are all parts of a bigger picture, however, and the most impressive thing about “Play Dead” is how well these 'smaller things' work together to create a very impressive whole.
The film suffers slightly (very slightly) from a few lines of trite dialogue, but there is no denying the technical prowess of all involved. It's funny that the film's biggest flaw, is simply that from a technical standpoint, it looks too damn good. At times you almost forget that this is an independent film, until a more back-to basics visual effect rears it's head and pulls you back to reality... which isn't so bad. The reality of the matter is that “Play Dead” is an incredibly capable film from a director who, from the perspective of an audience member, exudes confidence behind the camera, and I look forward to many more projects, short or otherwise, from Vanessa Roman. “Play Dead” is excellent in nearly every way.
|Directed by:||Vanessa Roman
|Written by:||Vanessa Roman||Haley Busch
||Michael Lowhorn||Jilanne Klaus|
|Produced by:||Gayle Gallagher