04 March, 2012

Macon: "Dead Herring" (***)

Nathaniel Atcheson, M. Elizabeth Hughes and Will Prescott star in "Dead Herring"

Although I have not gone to film school, I do have a little bit of an education in film. Minoring in film during college, I also took some screenwriting classes. "Dead Herring" was a familiar film to me for two reasons. One reason was that I was reminded of first learning about all the personal roles and elements involved in making a film. The other reason was that I had many peers who wrote films just like "Dead Herring." Regardless of originality, this movie is a ton of fun.

No matter what the assignment was in my screenwriting classes, be it a meet-cute, a sitcom rewrite or Holocaust drama, some of my peers would always manage to turn it into a zombie project. Not a single zombie is present in "Dead Herring," but the film's comedic slasher sensibility will resonate well with fans of the zombie genre. Writer-director-star Nathaniel Atcheson's film plays out pretty true to life, with each of the cast members retaining their real names and playing characters all struggling to work their way up the Hollywood ladder.

The film opens with a fast-paced intro about living and working in Los Angeles. From there, we spend most of the film inside Nathaniel's apartment, where the movie is at its best. The colorful cast and a quick pace make the low-fi production values irrelevant. The acting is pretty uneven; some are great, while others should perhaps keep their talent behind the camera. Upon the final revelation, we are subjected to an overlong exposition that feels like it takes up a third of the film. While a lot is explained here, it really nearly capsizes the whole movie. The final scene (at the premiere) is fine, but is missing the spark we saw back in the apartment. I would've enjoyed seeing an ending that mirrored the opening montage.

"Dead Herring" is a clever film and one of the best times I had at the Macon Film Festival, but it is not without some problems. Kudos to Atcheson and company for managing to combine their ode to breaking into the industry with a thumping slasher flick.

3 out of 5 stars.

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