The Horror Zine Review
A Film by Lawrence Riggins
|Director: Lawrence Riggins
Actors: Leland Crooke, Ryan Thomas Johnson, Robin Harlan
Studio: Branded Films
Release Date: 2007
Run Time: 87 minutes
A Film by Lawrence Riggins
Review by C. Dennis Moore
Danny Simmons is your typical movie teen. He’s a smart kid, but not Mensa smart. He’s not bad looking, but he’s no Adonis. He’s got a solid stable of loving and loyal friends, but his low self esteem makes him wish for more. He wants the girl he can’t have, the life he won’t get and the popularity that simply isn’t within his reach. In short, he’s like Scott Howard, only instead of turning into a wolfman, Danny Simmons has an old video camera left to him by his father when he died. And instead of becoming a basketball star, Danny Simmons becomes the latest sensation in the ongoing REEL DEATH series.
Not by design, of course; Danny doesn’t even like violence until his video store clerk best friend Vince convinces him watching REEL DEATH will cheer him up after Danny gets beat up by the boyfriend of the girl of his dreams. Later, Danny is recruited to film a safety video produced by one of his teachers, only the demonstration goes bad and the teacher is killed. Danny ends up selling the footage to Dr. Seymour, producer of the REEL DEATH series, and the money he makes convinces Danny he may have not only found his calling, but also figured out how to rid himself of all the people who seem determined to make Danny’s life hell.
Using his engineering genius and his father’s camera, Danny sets about making the best edition of REEL DEATH Dr. Seymour has ever seen, filming, as he says, enough footage for an entire installment of the popular video series. And one by one Danny’s tormentors are sliced, burned, exploded and decapitated, and it’s all caught on film.
DEATHUMENTARY is a very low budget affair (less than $20,000) but it’s also very obviously a labor of love. Looking over writer/director Lawrence Riggins’s resume, which includes movies like REPLICANT with Jean-Claude Van Damme, IRONHEART and ASSASSINS’ CODE, it’s obvious horror is not his usual genre, so the fact he wrote and directed this movie says to me this was a passion, and his love of the project shines through in every scene. I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but it was very obviously close to the director’s heart.
The screenplay comes and goes in typical fashion for this sort of high school movie, with only Dr. Saymour’s dialogue ringing a little too pretentious, and the acting on the parts of most of the cast was passable. Ryan Thomas Johnson as Danny does a good job, but I hate to admit I found myself being slightly distracted by his resemblance to Shon Greenblat from FREDDY’S DEAD: The Final Nightmare. Jesse Petrick as Danny’s best friend Vince seemed to be having the most fun and also showed a real knack for playing the goofy best friend.
DEATHUMENTARY is a revenge movie, a story I’m sure countless teenagers would relate easily to. Who among us didn’t have that one or two people in high school we used to devise horrible and brilliant methods for disposing of? And if we could make lots of money in the process, that’s fine, too (of course, if you didn’t have those one or two people you hated in high school, you were probably one of those one or two people yourself, so you should probably thank God you didn’t go to school with Danny Simmons).
The film plays the results with a fair amount of realism. In the end, Danny is pinned down by the cops and must be held accountable for his actions, even if it were a little further outside the realm of actual possibility than my suspension of disbelief was willing to extend.
Because the character was done well, I liked Danny. I felt for him, I related to and sympathized with him and wished I’d been there to tell him, “Dude, just wait, you’re, what, 16-17 now? Keep at the engineering and when you come back for the reunion, you’ll be able to buy this place. By then not only will you have gotten over Charlotte, you’ll take one look at what she’s made of her life and you’ll be glad you dodged that bullet.”
The effects were pretty good considering the budget of the movie. I’d say they were playing to a particular audience with this movie, and in that I’d say they succeeded.
If I’d been watching this movie simply as a viewer and not as reviewer, I would have been that audience. I really enjoyed this movie. Is it a masterpiece? No, but I have a feeling they weren’t going for that and instead just wanted a make a movie that was not only fun to make but fun to watch, too. DEATHUMENTARY is that movie.
Personally I love the low budget horror fare, especially when it’s done as well as this one was. DEATHUMENTRAY is a fun film.
Danny's Deathumentary HERE
About the Filmmaker
Writer-Director Lawrence Riggins has won more than thirty honors including the Samuel Goldwyn, Jack Nicholson, Chesterfield, Writers Digest, StoryPros, and Script Shark awards and recently directed his second feature, Assassins Code. Horror satire Danny’s Deathumentary was an official selection in Hollywood’s Shriekfest Film Festival.
About the Reviewer
C. Dennis Moore
C. Dennis Moore lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. He’s been writing just about forever with over sixty stories and novellas published, plus a collection of his short stories called Terrible Thrills. Recent publications include the Vile Things anthology from Comet Press and his novella Epoch Winter has been published by Drollerie Press.