New Horror Releases: Dead List (2018) - Reviewed

Even those far removed from Hollywood and show business know the struggle of an actor awaiting their break-out role. The biz is cutthroat; unending, fruitless auditions, side jobs to make ends meet, projects that may seem promising but end up collecting dust on studio shelves. For most hopeful actors, trying to break into the Hollywood mainstream (or, even, the B, C or D stream), is pure hell. 2018’s Dead List takes that idea and runs with it, introducing the audience to a severely struggling actor, Cal (Deane Sullivan) and the group of guys he regularly gets called to audition against. After a particularly terrible audition, a strange book literally falls from the sky, onto Cal’s car, and that’s when things get weird. While it certainly won’t be winning any Academy Awards, Dead List is a sometimes fun, regularly derivative tribute to ‘90s horror movies, with a couple of very memorable scenes of its own.

Reminiscent of the Final Destination series, the real star of Dead List are the deaths. While every death scene is different, each prompts the audience to recall scenes from the horror films that came before. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as directors Holden Andrews, Ivan Asen and Victor Mathieu all bring their own unique spin that shows these similarities are intentional and meant as an homage, not a rip-off. Special effects play a big part of the success of the film as well. Supervised by Jim Beinke, the practical effects are extremely effective. This is most noticed in Kush (Rob Healy)’s segment, where special effects artist Logan Long shines, creating a truly disgusting, hard to watch death that could easily turn the audience’s stomach, in the best way possible.

The main failure of the film is the glossing over of the spooky book that propels the story. It is simply accepted as being there. No character ever takes a moment to wonder where it came from, why it showed up, who sent it or why. And no one seems to care. There is so much missed potential here, the audience could wonder if this is the part of the film most negatively affected by its collaborative creation. Andrews, Asen and Mathieu share not only directing credits, but each wrote the section he directed, as well. It is, perhaps, because of this the individual segments are so strong and everything else, including the plot driving book, seems an afterthought.

Dead List is not breaking any new ground, but it is a fun little trip down memory lane with a few new twists. Fans of ‘90s horror are likely to be this film’s main target audience, and those folks should not be disappointed. But, if you’re looking for something deeper, you might want to pass this one by. 

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-Josie Stec