Many people grow up dreaming about becoming the next big thing in Hollywood. The acting bug hits more people than there are acting jobs. Talent only gets an actor so far as it is an extremely competitive and cutthroat business. Sometimes extreme measures are taken by out-on-their-luck actors to finally land the role of their dreams. Available on VOD May 1, 2018 and July, 3, 2018 on DVD, High Octane Pictures offers up Dead List, a film about just what an actor might do to land the role of a lifetime.
Martin Scorsese is casting for a new movie. Zander (Matt Fowler: Zombie Whisperer series, Amor secreto series), Kush (Rob Healy: Broken at Love 2012, The Last Kill 2015), Cal (Deane Sullivan: Good Job, Thanks! 2011, Dough 2014), Jason (Eric Pierce: My Crazy Ex series, 6 Ways to Die 2015), and Bob (Josh Eichenbaum: The Test Drive 2013, In the Company of Strangers 2014) are all competing for the same role. They all already know each other because fighting for the same role is nothing new for them. Usually Cal’s roommate, Trevor (Jan-David Soutar: YouTube Assassin 2010, Banshee 2013), is also in the mix, but he has landed a recurring role on a series and is out of the running.
Each of the actors are desperate for the role, but none as much as Cal. He has never had steady work and is always losing out to his counterparts. After a bad audition, Cal finds a leather-bound book with a bizarre symbol burned in the cover that lands on his car. Trevor is excited when he sees the book. He tells Cal that, “This book is your salvation.” They perform a ritual using their blood and the book. Cal does not take it seriously, but he is willing to try anything.
Almost immediately everyone who was up for the role begins to die in bizarre and horrific ways. A glowing symbol appears burned on their skin. Each one is killed in a different and even more outlandish way. What have Cal and Trevor conjured? Who else will die? Will this evil finally land Cal the role and ultimately the career he is desperate to have?
Directed by Holden Andrews (segment “Zander, ” “Kush”), Ivan Asen … (segment “Scott”), and Victor Mathieu (segment “Jason,” “Bob”), Dead List has a grainy early 1990s Horror movie vibe to it. This is not entirely on accident. There is a scene where Cal and Trevor are getting high and are watching 1990s horror movies. Cal mentions that there is nothing better. It is obvious by the various manners of deaths that the creators wanted to pay homage to classic Horror films before. Each death is unique from the rest in the film, but not unique on screen. There will be a nagging feeling in the viewer’s minds as to where the certain scenes have been viewed before. This is not a negative. The manner of death is the most interesting part of the entire film.
The most glaring issue with Dead List is loose ends. The mysterious book is never explained. It is the cause of all the action in the film, yet it is treated more like a prop than the catalyst that it is. In the Horror genre, it is easy for the viewer to accept this book is evil and can do evil things, but not having even a clear idea of what the book is or why it randomly landed on Cal’s car takes away a lot of this acceptance. Trevor’s insistence that the book is not evil and will help Cal is simply not enough to fully understand what is going on. That is it. No other explanation is given. There is really nothing original about the ideas in this film, which is completely fine if done correctly. The book, though, could have made this film a more exclusive voice in this genre.
All this in mind, Eichenbaum’s Bob is the true star of this film. When Bob is first introduced, he does seem like a throwaway character. He is finished with his audition and happily leaves the room. The rest of the guys discuss that Bob is fresh out of rehab and is working as a clown at kids’ parties to generate income. It is not until later that Bob’s true genius is revealed. Watching him snort cocaine and manically put on his clown makeup is the best part of the entire film. Somehow, watching him snort line after line, it does not seem like an addiction, rather just an extension of his character. Eichenbaum fully dives into this role and it shows.
Overall, Dead List is not a terrible film, but it is not a great one. There is not enough original content to make it leap out from its own counterparts. This could have been remedied if the book had a clear evil backstory, but sadly it does not. Watch for the deaths, not the story. It is for these reasons that CrypticRock gives Dead List 2.5 out of 5 stars.