Melvin DVD Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by 531 Productions
Written and directed by Henry Weintraub2009, Region 1 (NTSC), 61 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on July 27th, 2009
Leif Fuller as Melvin
Patrick O'Driscoll as Norton
Lilly Maher as Wendy
Shane Cohn as Detective Getz
Melvin (Leif Fuller) was a high school boy, constantly picked on by his classmates, until a particularly nasty trio pushed the hazing too far and killed him. A few years later, the same trio is now harassing Norton (Patrick O'Driscoll) at the local university. Norton is soon haunted by the ghost of Melvin, and begins waking from murderous nightmares covered in blood. Before long, zombies are walking the streets and Norton must resolve his issues if he is to stand a chance at getting some peace and winning the heart of Melvin's sister Wendy (Lilly Maher).
Melvin is a low budget feature that has genuine heart. While audiences may have seen a zombie love story before, the Oregon-based 531 Productions brings fresh energy to the material and creates a sense of fun that is as infectious as a zombie plague. The acting is surprisingly strong across the board, especially Lilly Maher who is instantly likeable and owns her scenes. Her screen presence is as striking as her gorgeous eyes. Leif Fuller's Melvin is engaging as both a victim and a foil to Patrick O'Driscoll's Norton, who is perfectly cast as the goofy lead. The two play well off each other and their scenes together are a highlight of the film.
Leif Fuller pulls double duty as both title character and as the film's cinematographer, and he shines in both roles. His camerawork is smooth and the shots well composed. Director Henry Weintraub creates several fine set pieces filled with enough goofy blood to make a Troma fan stand up and pee. Lloyd Kaufman (President of Troma Entertainment, and world class ham) is featured in the film within a film: Night of the Driller (stay tuned during the closing credits for the clever trailer).
The sole complaint against Melvin comes as a reaction to the deliberate decision to present the stories of Melvin and Norton simultaneously. Though two years apart, both feature the same cast, but events will take place at different times of the day or night without transition. A simple introductory text to the Melvin segment reading "Two Years Ago" would have made the intercutting a little less jarring, but the information is not once presented.
Director Henry Weintraub gives a refreshing commentary along with O'Driscoll. The two are clearly having fun and are proud of the end result. Weintraub is very forthright with information addressing both the budget and his willingness to continue to edit the film even below the traditional 75 minute feature length. O'Driscoll complements the track with numerous anecdotes and the two keep the awkward long silences properly banned from the track.
Even better than the commentary is a behind the scenes doc that covers the lengthy production that spanned several weekends over many, many months before reaching the finish line. The crew is small and several faces in front of the camera are seen working behind it as well. The guys all seem jazzed to be making a movie. The resourcefulness on display is inspiring as the creativity is never hampered by the financial limitations. Melvin is a film that deserves to be discovered.
Video and Audio:
The DVD provides a decent 1:78 anamorphic transfer that brings out nice detail in the picture, with strong blacks and rich colors. The only audio option is a 2-channel stereo mix, but it is pretty respectable and clear.
This DVD offers a surprising number of special features including a solid commentary, a 38-minute behind-the scenes-documentary, two music videos and a collection of approximately 100 stills. A nice addition includes the disturbing short film Depraved (26 minutes) and a peek at the original source material short Inzomniac.
531 Productions are instantly on the radar for filmmakers to look out for. If the budget for Melvin is actually what is claimed in the commentary, these guys are definitely at the start of what will hopefully be a very long career. With luck, the Oregon film community holds many other fine gems waiting to be discovered.