Saturday 3 January 2015

'Til Death (2013)

Director: Jason Tostevin
Stars: Brian Spangler, Trista Caruso, Franklin Grace, Tiffany Arnold, Eric Owens, Patrick Walters, Alycia Yates, Ginny Cipolla, Andy Falter and Elizabeth McPherson
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
'Til Death surely has to be the best couples movie ever. If you take your girl to this (or she takes you) and you leave it laughing your collective asses off, then your match was made in Heaven. If the laughter isn't there, then you might just end up like the four men at the heart of this outrageously funny and incredibly dark comedy. They're friends from way back, even though they're so different that there doesn't appear to be a single commonality between them. Well, there's one: they each hate their wives. Doug, the alpha male in a business suit, is henpecked by Carolyne who wants to paint his mancave kitten whiskers purple. Hipster William is apparently stuck with clingy Patsy, even though he's clearly gay. Brett, a stereotypically dumb wannabe rock star, is trying to resist Laura's demands that he grow up and get a real job. We meet Peter, the thoroughly nervous everyman, while he's being threatened by text message; his wife, Marie, is the Jewish nag from Hell. The four of them merely meeting at a bar is almost a subversive act.

And so what to do about it? When Peter owns up that he's actually scared of his wife, Doug suggests that he murder her. In fact, Doug will even murder her for him, if he returns the favour. It's a joke, of course, a wildly inappropriate joke. Or is it? The idea lingers like a fart in church and, the next thing we know, all of them are patting down the earth on top of a mass grave out behind Old Widow Horton's place. That's Old Widow Horton, the local witch. Now you can see where this story is going and why a comedy fit so well in a set of horror shorts, or at least you can if you have a delightfully twisted imagination like Jason Tostevin, this film's director, who conjured up the original story to be adapted to the screen by Randall Greenland. While Tostevin and Greenland are relative newcomers, they've earned more credits than the filmmakers whose work preceded theirs at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival. Thus far, they've only made short films, with a number of regular cast members, but only time stands between them and a feature.
While this played as a horror film, it's really a comedy with appropriately gruesome effects work. Each of the four leading men shine because they each have a strong sense of comedic timing; the fact that they show that in ways as different as their characters helps. Brian Spangler is a forceful stand up kind of guy as Doug, while Franklin Grace goes for subtle physicalities as William; Andy Falter feels like a sketch type of comedian as Brett, while Patrick Walters anchors them all as Peter. Each gets a number of moments to shine and they each do so magnificently. The only real question about these four is why their characters are such close friends; they seem too deliberately different for that to seem entirely viable. The ladies in their lives follow suit, but with less screen time in which to strut their stuff. Trista Caruso somehow makes Carolyne both enticing and annoying while Alycia Yates is note perfect as Marie, but Elizabeth McPherson and Tiffany Arnold get too little to do. There's only so much that fits in twenty minutes, it seems.

And that's an oddity. If Tostevin was willing to stretch his film to the twenty minute mark, which means it has to be strong indeed to land a festival slot that could have easily contained two other equally worthy shorts, why not stretch it a little further to give everyone their chance in the spotlight? If the characters don't have to share the running time equally, then why not trim it back down a few minutes? A few shots could have been cut without affecting the overall piece. The most obvious ones to trim tie to the notable inconsistency that I can't really talk about without venturing into spoiler territory. The IMDb synopsis has this to say about the film: 'Four unhappily married husbands wake up to a gruesome surprise the night after killing each others' wives.' Let's just say that who can see that gruesome surprise varies but not to logic I could fathom. Maybe it's an Ecuadorian in-joke between Tostevin and Greenland. Inconsistency or not, this is dry, black humour about as dry and black as it gets and that's all right by me.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Hal! Jason Tostevin here -- I had never seen this review until a fest director posted it as part of a selection announcement.

Just wanted to drop a line to say thanks for taking the time to watch and review -- and so thoughtfully! If you'd like to talk further about the movie or anything else (we've had a couple shorts since 'Til Death, and I'd be happy to share them), catch up with me on Facebook or through the production Facebook page,

Thank again!