THE CIVIL DEAD (2022)


Slamdance Film Festival 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. What a terrific film to kick off this year’s Slamdance festival! Writer-director Clay Tatum and co-writer Whitmer Thomas co-star in their own story that brings the “old” meaning of ghosting back to the forefront. But fear not, this is about as scary as the clip from the classic cartoon “Casper the Friendly Ghost” that’s included. Rather than spooky horror, this is about comedic situations involving a particular ghost (not named Casper).

Clay (Tatum) is a frumpy slacker who fancies himself a photographer, but lacks the drive to market himself or his work. He does, however, think a different haircut might help, even if he wields the scissors himself. His wife Whitney (Whitney Weir) chuckles at the idea, but seems extremely supportive (or forgiving) of her husband’s lack of effort in life. While Whitney’s away on a business trip, Clay seizes the opportunity to eat and drink the hours away, somehow accomplishing less than he would on a typical day.

Displaying an unusual spark of inspiration, Clay crafts a scam to raise his share of the rent … proving his lack of drive might actually be his finest quality. Later, while out taking pictures, Clay runs into his old friend Whit. They may be from the same hometown, but there is something a bit off in their re-connection. Clay tries to part ways, but Whit’s having none of that – he’s thrilled to be seen by his old buddy.

Robert Longstreet adds a jolt of energy in a poker sequence that evolves into a slow-motion booze-filled musical interlude. It’s yet another example of Clay’s moral compass, but most of the movie revolves around the interaction between Clay and Whit … and that’s fertile ground for some laughs and a premise that works pretty darn well. The filmmakers start us with a prologue with a bump in the night, though we aren’t really allowed to understand it until near the end of the film. It’s a nice start to the festival and an impressive project from the young filmmakers.

**Slamdance Film Festival embodies its mantra: By Filmmakers, For Filmmakers. Though Slamdance has greatly evolved since the early years, its mission and organization remain the same. Slamdance serves new and emerging artists, filmmakers, and storytellers from around the world. Slamdance programmers gravitate towards films that embody the true spirit of DIY guerilla filmmaking.

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