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Directors Brian Gaillard and Daniel Murphy and HM&M Films’ nifty slasher “And Then You Die” is a low-budget horror flick that gleefully channels some of the shot-on-video genre flicks perpetrated by the likes of Todd Sheets and Tim Ritter. The body count is high, the story is stronger than most, and the directors work wonders with the money they had at their disposable. As far as microbudget horror is concerned, the flick is one hell of a directorial debut.
Chuck Smith stars as Sam Wallace, a car salesman who is about to embark on one of the worst days of his life. Not only is his wife (Ellie Church) having an affair, he’s also on the cusp of losing his job. When the poor guy’s car runs out of gas on a rural road, things really start to unravel. Although Sam does his best to keep a level head, a man can only take so much crap before he completely snaps.
After getting fired and having his car towed away, our hero decides to make the long trek home. Unfortunately for Sam, he walks in on his wife and his best friend getting down to business in his own house. A fight promptly ensues, though it’s the unemployed salesman who ends up taking a sickening blow to the back of the head. Sam is soon wrapped up in a rug and dumped in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately for everyone in proximity, he’s not quite dead yet.
What’s cool about “And Then You Die” is that Murphy and Gaillard don’t start stacking bodies right off the bat. Instead of simply jumping directly into the meat and potatoes of the flick, the filmmakers opted to give viewers a little insight into what makes Sam tick. Although he does some very bad things over the course of the movie, you kind of sympathize with the poor bastard. After all, every one of us has been at the end of his or her rope at one point or another. Maybe not to this degree, but we’ve all had our moments.
While the film was surely shot on digital — what movie isn’t these days — “And Then You Die” feels as though it should have been released on VHS during the height of the 80s slasher craze. It may have been shot last year, but you’d swear this thing came straight from the dusty old video store you frequented as a kid. And while not every aspect of the film fires on all cylinders, everyone involved does their part to bring this dark and twisted tale to life.
Powered by performances from Ellie Church, Christopher Hunt, and Chuck Smith, “And Then You Die” is a strong first feature from Brian Gaillard, Daniel Murphy, and the folks at HM&M Films. It’s a slasher packaged with an involving story and engaging characters, a rarity for the subgenre. It’s a promising debut, one that’s certain to help all involved stretch their legs a bit in the genre. The film reminded me once again why I love independent movies: Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you can’t craft quality cinema. Although the flick has its problems, chances are you’ll be too entertained by Sam’s quest for vengeance to care.
Brian Gaillard, Daniel Murphy (directors, screenwriters)
CAST: Chuck Smith … Sam Wallace
Ellie Church … Tessa Wallace
Christopher Hunt … Brad Joseph