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Dead Experiment, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Could use a few more sparks of life."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Dead Experiment" is going to get abused as a title. There's the way it's probably meant to be taken, as a sinister-sounding article-adjective-noun combination, but it also turns out to be a true sentence describing the plot of the movie. It's also, unfortunately, kind of a disparaging description of the movie that's not entirely inaccurate.

Things start out with Chris (Ryan Brownlee) stumbling home after what looks like a late night, except that his girlfriend Maddie (Jenna Jade Rain) completely freaks out. It turns out that Chris died two weeks ago - funeral, burial, whole nine yards. However, he was a grad student doing research on tissue regeneration and the like, and his best friend and research partner Jacob (Jamie Abrams) took the liberty of engaging in some human testing. Initial experiments, of course, tend to fall short of ideal results.

Writer/director/producer Anthony Dixon has a science background, and I admire what he is trying to do here, making this sort of sci-fi movie which at least tries to ground itself in realistic science while working up some tension and maybe giving the audience something to think about, and all things being equal, I'm glad there is some sense to his technobabble; it never takes me out with "no! wrong!" He also does quite well in finding ways for the story to twist and move forward despite working under very tight constraints (three actors, one house, and very little budget for anything beyond that).

It can be kind of dull, though; the characters say a lot of things using the right words, but seldom make it interesting for the layman. A lot of pressure is put on the details of what happened and is communicated in a very technical way, as opposed to something that resonates a little more strongly. As a result, a great deal of the tension of what comes next has to come from characters making often-foolhardy decisions to not share information, and while that works once or twice, it gets kind of irritating when needless secrecy seems to be what triggers every twist in the plot.

As was mentioned, The Dead Experiment is made under tight constraints and very much feels that way. The visual effects are minimal,for instance, and it's hard to miss how everything involving people outside the core cast takes place off-screen. That cast is capable, although Brownlee and Abrams spend so much time spouting technical terms that it can be hard to really get at the character; Rain has to deal with somewhat less of that, and as a result gets to make a bit more of an interesting impression on the audience.

It's the sort of weaknesses that are to be expected from someone making his first film, as Dixon is, and as a result the film he's made sometimes feels a bit more like practice than something that will make it all the way to a general audience. It's not a bad seventy-five minutes for the festival audience that gets to see it, and gives hope that Dixon will be able to move onto something more polished.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25420&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/09/13 14:15:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Anthony Dixon

Written by
  Anthony Dixon

Cast
  Ryan Brownlee
  Jenna Jade Rain
  Jamie Abrams



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