TLA Releasing // 2006 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // April 4th, 2008
Terror by good intentions.
Donald (Roger Lloyd Pack, Vicar of Dibley) has a problem. His financial situation is disastrous at best and he needs to go out of town on a business trip. The problem lays in the fact that his wife Nancy (Kate Fahy) is bedridden and needs constant care and his son James (Leo Bill) is batshit insane. His hand forced, Donald must leave Nancy in the care of James, alone together and under his lunatic care. Wacky hijinks ensue; if by "wacky," I mean "disturbing" and by "hijinks" I mean "movie that I'll never watch again."
The Living and the Dead has moments of unflinching brutality. Not violence, though there is some of that sprinkled here and there. But it's the scenes of a lunatic's idea of hospital care that can really get the skin crawling. Scenes of James force feeding his mother pills or stripping her to change her clothes were far more disturbing than the knife play that takes place later.
James is the focus on the film and Leo Bill is fine for the part, though there is the scenery chewing that is almost mandatory whenever anyone plays a crazy person. There are also the usual, clichéd cinematic tomfooleries to let the audience know that the character is, in fact, a little off, such as sped up film and the deluge of bizarre hallucinations. However, there are more effective little moments, like the constant repetition of James' morning ritual. With each successive iteration, James is obviously becoming more and more unstable as this ritual degrades more and more.
There are also some major plot hole problems, but I can't really discuss them without potentially letting loose some spoilers. So be warned, the next paragraph has spoilers.
Nancy suffers from a never disclosed illness that is apparently getting worse and has been afflicting her for some time. That's fine. But at one point they perform an emergency operation on her and from then on she's all better. So why didn't they perform this operation months ago so they didn't have to rely on Nurse James?
Secondly, James kills someone. They know James is the killer. He's caught in the act and red handed, literally. So why in the nine hells is he allowed to roam about and also attend the funeral of the person he killed? Yeah, there's a nurse and some orderlies there, but generally speaking, I'd think that letting a mentally disturbed murderer wander about is a bad idea.
Lastly, James also has a knife. James, the murderer and paranoid schizophrenic, somehow gets a knife. And not just any knife, but the murder weapon itself. There's a deleted scene that explains how he gets the knife, but this scene just opens up a whole other can of worms. Speaking of the deleted scenes, I'm once again thankful that the deleted scenes remained deleted. They would have done little more than slow down the frantic pace.
The making of featurette is actually well done and informative, which is a new experience with me. Most times they're five minute affairs that have the cast and crew talking about how much they loved working on the movie. This one actually has a strong narrative and good interviews. Shocking.
There's also a short film by the director Simon Rumley, which was interesting but not my cup of tea.
The Living and the Dead is a strange, quirky, extreme, and troubled horror film. Kind of like the main character really. Give it a try, because, at the very least, it's better than the gore porn that's dominating the genre nowadays.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making-Of Featurette
* Deleted Scenes
* Original Trailer
* Stills Gallery
* Laughter A short film by Simon Rumley