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May 28, 2012

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Pretty Dead

(2012, Dir. by Benjamin Wilkins.)

Pretty Dead came to me as a new entry in both the "found footage" and "kinda zombie" subgenres of horror, and I have to admit I approached the film with some caution.  Is there anything new and/or interesting to be said by filmmakers who use these methods? Well, of course there is.  And Pretty Dead does a good job of showing that.

Regina Stevens is a young woman who seems to have the world in front of her. She's an aspiring doctor and has a fiance who loves her, and all of that would be excellent except for the fact that she's dying.  Not in the "we're all dying as we age" way, in the "I did some experimentation with cocaine and passed out and now I don't really have a pulse and have strange and bloody cravings" way.  Since her and her fiance are both medically knowledgeable folks, Regina initially sees this as an opportunity for research - even if she is the guinea pig in the experiment.

As the film takes on a scientific tone, an Animal Planet-style plot twist piqued my interest in the film's vision of infection.  I don't have the scientific mind to explain what the film tells us about the infection Regina is dealing with - the flick's website can give you better information on that than I could, though I think that's a bit spoilery for my tastes - but each of the ideas the film presents feel fresh to the horror scene.  I (obviously) watch a lot of movies that introduce a lot of monsters/infected/killers in a lot of ways, and it's fantastic to find a film that doesn't slip into old standards.  Pretty Dead's biggest strength lies in the ideas behind its plot, which surprised me by offering a new twist on what "zombies" could be.

(I'm of course using the quotation marks on "zombies" because that age old debate on what constitutes zombiedom - Do you have to be dead and buried? Do infecteds count? - is a touchier subject than politics or religion to many I know. Not touching it with a ten foot pole here.)

With an interesting twist to the formula, Pretty Dead is left to its stars and its filmmakers, and they don't disappoint.  Carly Oates stars as Regina, and does a fantastic job during the character's transformation from successful young woman to potentially undead monster. She controls and partially narrates the film - which raises a few small concerns with the found footage format when the film slips into non-found-footage-movie mode - which is very well constructed by director Benjamin Wilkins and co-writer/producer Joe Cook.  There's no Hollywood gloss to the film, which means everything feels pretty natural as it reveals what's going on in Regina's world.

The story doesn't wrap up perfectly - stay through the end credits for not one, but TWO(!) brief scenes that add to the film's narrative - and it telegraphs a few of its final twists early on. But Pretty Dead still left me very impressed with what Wilkins, Cook, Oates and the rest of the cast and crew pulled off. This is a fascinating, unique, and intelligent film that makes the most of its resources.  It's exciting to see a movie that feels as new to the horror genre as Pretty Dead does, and that makes Pretty Dead a horror hit that's just waiting to happen.

Pretty Dead is currently on the festival circuit and awaiting wide release, but keep your eyes peeled for more news on this one.  In the meantime, more information can be found on the official site, which is right about HERE. Or, you can find the flick on Facebook and/or Twitter.  Do it!

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