Dead @ 17 (Short)
Reviewed by Melissa Bostaph
Starring Jessica Ciccone, Katelyn Gracy, Ryan Krysiak
Directed by Mark Steensland
It’s a sad fact that most of us have lost or will lose a close friend while we are still young. My first childhood casualty happened when I was in sixth grade. A good friend succumbed after a long battle with leukemia and he was gone forever.
That was a bitter medicine when I was a child and it didn’t get any easier to swallow as I got older. Within the first year of my high school graduation I had lost another friend, and then another. Honestly, I don’t even like to think of how many young lives ended too soon, each as tragic and unnecessary as the first. Yet somehow you find the strength to carry on with your own existence, even if you are never quite the same person you were before.
In "Dead @ 17", Hazy learns this hard lesson when her best friend Nara is viciously stabbed to death in her own home. Having scarcely enough time to even begin to digest the fact that Nara is gone, Hazy is dragged into the local police station for questioning. It's here that she finds out that she may not have known her best friend as well as she thought. Rumors of Nara’s involvement with the occult seem absurd to Hazy until their mutual friend concurs. As if the night couldn’t get any worse for Hazy she gets attacked by zombies, and the one who comes to her rescue is the last person she’d ever expect.
Director Mark Steensland gives us a sneak peek into the world based on a series of comics, Dead @ 17, created and written by Josh Howard. The nine and a half minute long film takes us into a brief amount of time mainly from the first chapter in the mildly complex four part comic. I first saw Dead @ 17 quite some time ago with no knowledge of the comic, and frankly I didn’t care for it. Since then I have read the comics and re-watched the movie. This time I liked it less and liked it more in the same breath.
After immersing myself into the comic’s story and becoming more involved with the characters I realized that the acting that I had originally thought was bad to begin with didn’t even come close to properly portraying the dynamics of the relationships and vibrancy of the girls. The lead actresses completely murdered the "I just had a bad dream" scene at the end of the film. I can’t fault Steensland for omitting key parts of the book’s story because it would have just ended up being confusing for what he was trying to do, but after reading the comics I would have liked to have seen more.
Most of the movie looks like the comic could have been used as storyboards. There are some moments where that works on film and others that it falls short in the cinematic translation. But for those who are familiar with the written works it's very clear to see the attention to detail in nearly every frame of film, all the way down to red striped socks that are nearly impossible to find these days. Even the zombie design was borrowed directly from the page. Again we hit on something that works in parts and doesn’t in others, but the screen time of the creatures is brief enough to not detract too much.
Overall the film mimics the comic well. I just wish the acting would have complimented the subject matter, it is the main problem I have with the whole film. It just didn’t do the characters justice. Since getting my hands on the comics I’m now a fan of Howard’s creation, and I am very curious to see what will happen when Dead @ 17 makes it to the big screen as a feature length film.
3 out of 5
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