Directed by Anthony Dixon
There’s a certain low budget charm to The Dead Experiment, but that’s probably because it feels like this could be a film that your friends made over the course of a few weekends. Maybe that will inspire other aspiring filmmakers to stop talking and start shooting, seeing that an effort like Anthony Dixon’s first film can garner some attention and tour a few film festivals (Fantasia Fest obviously thought it was a worthy entry). Sadly, that might be the film’s only redeeming quality, although it does have a fairly compelling premise and one or two tricks up its sleeve.
After being dead for two weeks, a medical student named Chris (Ryan Brownlee) returns to life and wanders down the road back to his girlfriend Maddie’s (Jenna Jade Rain) apartment. Obviously shocked, Maddie soon realizes that Chris doesn’t quite remember all the details of his demise, but once his schoolmate Jacob (Jamie Abrams) enters the picture things become quite clear. Chris and Jacob have been running experiments in hopes of repairing tissue for cancer patients, and their findings prove to have unexpected results beyond their wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, The Dead Experiment comes to a grinding halt after the initial setup, anchored down by hollow performances and zero production value. Virtually the entire movie takes place in the living room of Maddie’s apartment as the three leads struggle to come to terms with what they’ve done.
The story focuses more on the emotional toll inflicted upon the living once Chris returns to life with the majority of dialogue dedicated to mulling over whether or not Jacob should have run this dead experiment just because he could. Obviously, to pull something like this off, these two guys are on the cutting, bleeding edge of science, and their brilliance is probably unparalleled. But the script (also by Dixon) doesn’t give them anything intelligent to say. Instead, everyone’s just sitting around whining most of the time.
To try and inject some dramatic tension, Chris begins to weaken and faint at the worst possible times, especially towards the finale where the film’s major twist is revealed. It’s a fine idea and unexpected enough, but these actors aren’t experienced enough or talented enough to execute the moment properly, and Dixon is not equipped within the limits of his budget to do anything but point the camera and shoot.
The Dead Experiment plays with the idea of reanimation without even a hint of the tongue and cheek, comic undertones that usually accompany this kind of concept, deciding instead to tell its story as a straight drama. That is ambitious but the film isn’t ambitious at all, to its detriment. Instead of trying anything outside the box, The Dead Experiment stays on the straight and narrow path, becoming tedious when it might have had the chance to be a little more inventive.
1 1/2 out of 5