Hank Boyd is Dead Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Bag of Cats Productions
Written and directed by Sean Melia
2015, 76 minutes, Not Rated
Stefanie E. Frame as Sarah
David Christopher Wells as David
Liv Rooth as Aubrey
Michael Hogan as Ray
Carole Monferdini as Beverly Boyd
Two caterers arrive at a house to work a wake for the eponymous accused killer Hank Boyd. One leaves, and the remaining woman is left to deal with a family that has much more going on than a simple funeral.
I found myself feeling surprised more than anything as I watched Sean Melia's directorial debut, Hank Boyd is Dead. I was surprised with the unexpectedly tight and nuanced performances that the actors were turning in. I was surprised at the competent script that stayed strong throughout and helped guide the tone and pace. It felt as if I were listening to a roller coaster slowly clacking up a tall incline, then listening to the increasingly rapid descent. The film toes a line between horror and restrained slapstick, choose to blend them in equal nuanced parts than to allow either to fully reign.
The casting is dead on for each of the characters. Scuzzy cop Ray, with his popped shirt collar over his suit jacket and his unkempt long hair immediately gave off bad vibes, as Michael Hogan plays the character with a breezy yet untrustworthy air. Matriarch Beverly slips in and out of coherence and between affable hostess and a more fitting wife for an accused killer. David Wells plays the son/cop/newly appointed patriarch of the family with a gravely, confident, yes urgent gusto. Most praiseworthy about his performance is that the audience can almost follow his thinking as events unfold, revealing a surprisingly fluid train of thought and his ability to quickly adapt to new situations. Liv Rooth plays his sister Sally with a shy, innocent reserve, yet hinting at an underlying mania that would rival Harley Quinn. Finally, Stefanie Frame gives our hero Sarah a believable surrogate for the audience. She handles her scenes with easy aplomb and never falls anywhere near the scream queen tropes that have ruined lesser pictures.
Truly, the pace is what raises this movie. If it had let the foot off the gas a little, the audience would start analyzing it more, and perhaps find a chink in its armor. Had it gone faster, several of the revelations may have gone unnoticed. Melia shows a confident hand by steering the ship exactly how it needs. His script, flowing with fast-paced back and forths, gives itself to an easy translation through the actors. The most interesting part is how Melia allowed the film to take place in broad daylight. It plays out entirely over the course of a morning and early afternoon, so the story isn't afforded the supposed requisite gloom to heighten the scares. It feels novel to make such a bold choice, but his belief in his actors and in the quality of the script gave him room to make such a leap of faith. Finally, the interspersed home videos of the Boyd family, sometimes in just a blink of an eye splice into a scene, other times overtaking the modern scene with the characters narrating over them, lend a slick, produced feel to the film that feels welcomed.
At times this feels more like a Netflix miniseries than a short-run feature film, especially with the stylized opening and short, documentary-like scenes of Boyd's brother trying to explain where things all went wrong. Despite this, the movie flows very well. Viewers should be on the lookout for Melia's next project. If he can make this solid film with what feels like a bottom barrel budget, just what can he do with the financial backing this project should lend him?