A GRIM BECOMING
I would like to start off by saying a big thank you to Co-writer and Director Adam R Steigert, for allowing me early access to his Horror/Comedy film “A Grim Becoming”. He was nice enough to send me a low-resolution screener, even though the film is still being finalized. A Grim Becoming is about Raphael (played by Brandyn T Williams), a young executive on the verge of losing a multimillion dollar contract with a large distribution company. Luck would have it (well kind of haha), when his nephew Lance (Mike Sarcinelli), suddenly passes away and he has to leave town for the funeral, in turn delaying the deal. Wayne (Britt Griffith), is a jealous co-worker of Raphael’s who see’s an opportunity to get one up on him, and therefore decides to follow him and make matters worse. Raphael’s life is turned upside down when he witnesses the Reaper “Magoo” (Michael Sciabarrasi), taking a soul (yes that’s right… death itself). It’s a process he was never supposed to see, and will now have to explore his own conscience as a Reaper, in order to return to the life he once had. The film was shot for an estimated $60,000, and also stars the lovely, Devanny Pinn, Jessica Cameron, Melantha Blackthorne, Aryn Fitzgerald and Bill Oberst Jr.
I’ll start this off with the casting. It’s rare that I get asked to review a film where the cast consists of actors that I’ve seen in other projects. It’s usually always fresh faces, probably due to the small budgets and new directors. If I do recognize the actors/actresses it’s often because I’ve inquired about the film myself for that very reason. It was a pleasant surprise to see the movie kick off with the gorgeous Devanny Pinn, whose sporting a nurse’s outfit for a Halloween party. Pinn plays Jamie, a young girl celebrating the occasion with her friend, and boyfriend Lance. Most of her screen time is in the first ten minutes, but she plays the part well, as do the others. I was surprised to see writer, actor and director Jessica Cameron (as if one wasn’t talented enough), appear for a few scenes half way through the film, representing “life” in corporeal form (somewhat amusing haha). The main reason I took a look at this one was for my main man Bill Oberst. Let’s just say the name Phill Looney couldn’t have been more appropriate for the character. This guy is damn creepy (haha, not Bill himself of course). He’s the father of Lance, and he has the most bizarre, reserved yet kinky relationship with his wife Meryl (Blackthorne). A couple of his scenes were a little too awkward, even for me. He does a solid job, but in my opinion he’s underused. Williams is the breath of fresh air in this one. If my memory serves me correct, he appears in every scene and he brings an honest approach to it. He seems very genuine, which for the most part made me believe his character.
I thoroughly enjoyed the opening 10 minute scene, some of which takes place in an abandoned house. I like the Addams Family style score, along with some of the opening dolly shots. Actually most of the film is shot and edited really well. Although it’s an obscure mix of genres, by the end of the first act you get a pretty detailed explanation about the inner-workings of whats happening. The structure remains clear for a while but given the odd mix of Horror/Comedy and Drama it loses its way eventually. I found the first half to be much more interesting than the second. The rules surrounding what Raphael has to do to get his life back didn’t seem clear, maybe it was just me. The scenes between Magoo and Raph were like something from “The Invention Of Lying” with Ricky Gervais but void of that clever humor. A couple of the more awkward scenes were quite amusing though. The outburst in the funeral home and so-called “resurrection” (for lack of a better word), were reminiscent of something from the classic 80’s gem “Weekend At Bernies”. A Grim Becoming doesn’t really come through with much action, and it’s very light on the horror too (but I think that’s on purpose). When something crazy does actually happen, we get to see some nice blood and gore. Most of it is on display in the last act, and it’s all done practically.
As I’ve already said, I think this is a specific type of humor, it’s definitely an acquired taste. For me, some of it works and some of it doesn’t. You have to admire Adam and the other writers for sticking to their guns though. You want to try to please your audience, but you also want to stay true to the story you set out to tell. Unfortunately, the emotional side of this one didn’t carry much weight. A lot of the characters aren’t entirely fleshed out. It’s mostly a lot of surface stuff, and personality traits that we get see being displayed. Considering the sub-plot is about Death, albeit told in a very out there kind of way, I expected it to have a bit more substance. I had a few problems with certain revelations within the story too. For example, around the ten minute mark, the initial plot revelation involving Lance happens. The way in which it occurred was quite confusing. One minute he’s using the bathroom in between getting it on with Jamie, and the next he’s just not there. It seemed very rushed and totally unclear. I had no idea what happened in that scene.
I also had trouble separating who was who, when it came to the characters relationships to each other. Who was a blood relative, or who was only related through marriage. Personally, I think they could have done away with two or three of the characters that weren’t imperative to the core story. The old Mother and Father characters (who I think were supposed to be comedic relief), were just a constant distraction. I apologize if it wasn’t makeup. But what appeared to be makeup applied to actor Patrick Mallette’s face, was horrible. I realize if it’s a birth defect, or from a burn of some sort, I’m going to seem insensitive but I don’t think it was (Sorry if I’m wrong about that). The makeup on Magoo and October (the young girl), wasn’t bad but given the quality of practical effects I thought it may have been done a little better. Some of the secondary actors amongst this cast delivered fairly mediocre performances. Also, a few of the sub-plots such as the one involving Wayne seemed like unnecessary filler.
I tried pretty hard to like A Grim Becoming, but I quickly came to the realization that it’s just not for me. I’m picky about blending genres and attempting to balance the entertainment value, while still telling an interesting and worthwhile story. A Grim Becoming had some cool familiar faces, a great lead and a well conceived technical approach. I liked the opening segment and several scenes in between, but I think it’s overly long and suffers in its pacing, especially towards the final act. Tonally it’s just a bit too far out there for me. However, that doesn’t mean plenty of avid movie watchers won’t enjoy it. So please check out the Facebook page, and support these low-budget indie films. I look forward to watching future projects from Adam! Cheers bud
My rating for “A Grim Becoming” is 4.5/10