Directed by: #AdamYork
Written by: #DaveHarlequin
“Hell is an office job?”
Forget fire and brimstone, the eternal damnation that awaits all of us sinners is a dismal cubicle where we shall be forced to devise our own methods of torture in this fun clever premise from writer Dave Harlequin. Department 666 follows the character of Chris who after being killed in a car wreck finds himself in the waiting room of the afterlife and then being lead through “job training” with office manager Barry. Director Adam York infuses elements of Beetlejuice and The Good Place into his vision but is unable to create an engaging environment for his actors to thrive in.
The intention is obviously for a drab office space complete with harsh fluorescent lights against the actor's pale makeup. That does help the illusion but with the location having various windows displaying sunlight, trees, and other buildings, the idea that the characters are in a trans-dimensional office is hard to believe. However, Patrick G. Keenan’s enthusiastic performance as Barry is so delightful that it makes York and Harlequin’s vision of hell worth watching. Michael Ray Williams as Chris is the everyman the audience experiences the story through but its Keenan that makes the script’s premise and dialogue pop. Barry has all the energy of a sleazy used car salesman, slapping a friendly smile on a terrible reality, making the same pitch to the next sap in his clutches.
Keenan has the honour of explaining the unique method in which Department 666 makes misery for its residents. Where people spend all day writing ideas for torture and whoever has the best idea gets the night off while the rest are persecuted through the winning design. It’s a great premise for how Hell brings the worst out of people but the film doesn’t derive an interesting conflict from it. The conflict comes from Chris learning about the system but Department 666 just feels like the set up for a longer story which the concept could definitely thrive from.
There is passion behind the camera to Department 666 but sudden cuts in editing or poor camera angles break the immersion of the performances. Despite this, the film still feels fresh thanks to Harlequin’s script and Keenan’s performance even with its inspirations in the back of the audience’s mind. Giving hell and death a new personality, its a shame the film spends all of its time setting up its new world rather than giving its characters a story to experience within it.