Directed by Sean Patrick Dahlberg
Starring Stas Drakos, Alexis Drakos, and Peter Kowalchick
Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
“Don’t you wish you could be with the one you love for all eternity?” Most people’s answer to that question would be a resounding ‘yes’, but how far would they go to fulfil their desire? Sean Patrick Dahlberg’s short Until Death explores just that quandary.
Michael (Stas Drakos), recently bereft by the death of his wife (Alexis Drakos), orders a TaRa – 5000, a form of taxidermy that brings his partner “back to life”. Whilst he is initially overjoyed, their rosy beginnings aren’t set to last as his “wife” starts to exhibit some worrying behaviour…
After the death of his wife, Michael has clearly been drinking himself into despair, a detail reinforced by the excellent camera movements that echo his instability and drunken stupor. However, the delivery of his newly re-purposed wife pulls him out of his funk and he begins to rediscover the joys that life has to offer; Michael takes his “wife” on romantic trips to the beach, offers her piggyback rides through the park and dines with her. Just like the old times. Except this time, he is effectively romancing a corpse which is slightly perturbing to watch and is reminiscent of both Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling.
Unfortunately, Until Death doesn’t reach the height of its influences and is neither as absurdly dark as Black Mirror or comically quirky as Lars and the Real Girl. Although, its visual prowess is extremely impressive and the cinematography, courtesy of Jon-Michael Onderdonk is one of the short’s highlights. The fluidity of camera movements and consideration of lighting suggests the thought, professionalism and collaboration between the artists involved. At first, the decision to film in black and white feels unmotivated but the reveal within the last few minutes is perfectly executed and justifies the stylistic choice.
Black comedies are tricky to pull off – too dark and you risk alienating your audience, not risqué enough and you could lose their attention altogether. Until Death falls somewhere between the two on the spectrum and as a result, there is a lack of tonal cohesion. Aspects of tension aren’t suspenseful enough and in one moment we’re meant to be scared of a wandering corpse, the next tickled at its tiresome shenanigans.
Whilst Until Death is tonally confused, it’s a confidently filmed short that shows a lot of promise for it’s behind the camera talent.