Film Review: A Place Among the Dead

Fans of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer will forever remember Juliette Landau as Drusilla, the willowy, unhinged cockney vampire who named the stars and played rough with her dollies. The thing about playing a vampire on screen is that, after a few decades, the performer is no longer able to reprise that role convincingly. No amount of Hollywood self-care truly stops the aging process (Paul Rudd, notwithstanding). But Landau comes as close as she can to revisiting Drusilla in her writing/directing debut, A Place Among the Dead. Landau plays Jules, a fictionalized version of herself, who becomes immersed in investigating a string of murders which may or may not have been committed by a vampire. Landau (and, thus, Jules) uses her Hollywood connections to collect testimonials from vampire-adjacent celebrities. These interviews punctuate the true crime documentary she’s crafting about the killer. A Place Among the Dead is an ultra-meta exploration on the ways in which pop culture glamorizes death and destruction whilst trading youth and beauty as currency. The daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, Landau seasons the brew with a dash of Old Hollywood pathos…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!


Film Review: Flytrap

Boxing Helena meets Under the Skin with a Twilight Zone after-taste, in Stephen David Brooks’ micro-budget 2016 black sci-fi comedy, Flytrap. Jeremy Crutchley (TVs The Blacklist) stars as James Pond, a British ex-pat and astronomy professor whose car inexplicably breaks down in the deep ‘burbs on his way to his new job at UCLA. For some reason, his cell also stops working. At a loss, he reluctantly knocks on the door of the only person who seems home in the area. A comely but odd woman named Mary Ann (Ina-Alice Kopp) invites him in with a glass of wine ready at the ready. But her aggressive hospitality soon turns sinister when James realizes he can’t leave.

At first, Mary Ann claims she’s alone but it’s not long before James meets her roommates, Gilligan (Jonah Blechman, This Boy’s Life) and the Skipper. When James snarkily inquires about Ginger, Mary Ann tells him straight-faced that the Skipper dealt with her when she tried to leave. At this point, James starts to suspect that he may have fallen into some sort of death cult in the midst of their final countdown. All of the fearless crew are stoic, stiff, and dead-eyed. They clearly have some sort of agenda, and it ain’t making a radio out of a coconut.

Brooks’ script is not particularly strong, but Flytrap captivates thanks to a game cast. Kopp is especially adept at maintaining an other-worldly presence. Crutchley projects an affably pompous demeanor as he bumbles his way through his strange captivity. No one has ever looked more threatening in a Hawaiian shirt than Jonah Blechman.

One cast member who gets the short shrift is Billy “Sly” Williams as James’ friend and colleague, Rondell. He mostly stares perplexedly at his phone whilst attempting to reach James. Tragically, no one else calls Rondell during the days James is missing, as evidenced by one shot of his empty incoming call records.

Brooks doesn’t do much to develop his characters but the 80-minute film is heavy on plot and James’ captors are strange and sinister enough to hold one’s attention. We don’t know what these people are capable of, but their threat feels limitless. Likewise, we don’t know James well enough to guess at the parameters of his self-preservation. He claims to be a gentle, non-violent type but there are times he appears to be unraveling under duress.

Flytrap had a brief festival tour in 2016 and is now available on VOD at Amazon and Tubi among other services.