e-mail:Smokey X. Digger
2001, Dir. Guy McConnell
It's far too easy to simply dismiss Deathlist as an amateurish, "Mom and Dad please stay upstairs while I'm filming" shot-on-video crapfest. While it's not exactly Mario Bava, Deathlist is a slasher film by a group of young filmmakers who display a great deal of potential. The budget is non-existent and the effects show it. The actors are obviously inexperienced and the film's pace moves in fits and starts. But the reason that it can't be simply dismissed is that there is talent and a certain degree of ingenuity present. These filmmakers are learning to work within their means, which imbues the prospect of future releases with definite potential.
The plot concerns a list of names and a masked man trying to kill everyone on it. People get knocked off, there's a revelation, and a surprise ending. There's nothing wrong with the narrative structure which never leaves you wondering what's happening or why. The film could've stood for a bit more dialogue, as POV scenes of the killer puttering around his basement become interminable. Another wordless sequence works better: when the protagonist invstigates the basement (which must be the biggest basement this side of Evil Dead) the buildup to the discovery of an enigmatic photograph does create suspense. For the most part the dialogue is of the "banter between friends" variety. It has an improvised feel, accentuated by a liberal dose of the word fuck. The killer's speech is well written and delivered; if the rest of the dialogue was up to it's snuff the film's pace would have smoothed considerably.
Some actors come off better than others. The protagonist (Guy McConnell) and the heroine (Andrea Garay) are at the upper end of the spectrum. Some of Guy's scenes create an unsettling mood around his character, giving him added depth. Andrea has a set of pipes and uses them well; and her softer scenes in which she sits and smokes take on a pensive mood. The friends in the script are fodder and aren't too annoying before they get what's coming to 'em. The best part of Deathlist is how they work within their low budget. Fake blood abounds, but the problem of convincing stabbing and punching sounds is avoided by a cleverly placed sound effect. Working with one camera and a tripod, there are a few surprisingly creative edits which break up the standard fading to black.
IN CLOSING: Deathlist isn't going to blow you away. However, when you consider that it's the product of a no-budget seven person team in which the cast and crew are one and the same, you will be surprised at how slick it actually came out looking. Deathlist is a more than promising start for this group which should be watched for in the future.