Festival Film Review: Post Mortem - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Festival Film Review: Post Mortem

This is the third film in the Head Case series directed by Anthony Spadaccini of northern Delaware. Post-Mortem has essentially the same plot as The Ritual, the second film in the series, only this one stars Mark Cray as John Craven and Devin Kates as Seth. It seems that if serial killing was a course in college, Craven would be the professor and Seth the student.
Actually, Robert Z'Dar who plays Cameron hires Craven to find and groom a young man to be a serial killer. This young man is to replace Cameron's grandson who inexplicably dies. Craven's stepfather was a serial killer who trained him and his mother how to murder. Now, Craven loves to kill and has made a career out of it. Thanks to his biological father's inheritance, Craven can make a career out of it.
Despite the fact that this film is mainly a prequel to The Ritual, Cameron's backstory isn't explained. Where did he come from? How did he meet Craven? We get a rehashing of stuff from the previous movie, but deeper delving into Cameron's character might have been preferred. It's said that Cameron was a Hannibal Lecter type, but we don't hear much about it. Some exploration into that could have been delicious.
Meanwhile, Craven is either devilishly gleeful or else he's a stern taskmaster toward Seth. Like Paul McCloskey who played Craven's serial killer stepfather and Barbara Lessin who played his mother in the first film, Cray certainly looks as if he's having fun playing this sadistic murderer. Again though, with all the flashbacks and rehashing of things we learned in the previous movie, there really could have been some exploring of Craven's character. There is a scene where Craven's mother who is in prison complains that her husband never came to visit her, but there's no mention of her son Craven at all. We have no idea what the relationship was between Craven and his mom.
Speaking of people separated from family members, the movie is really centered around Devin Kates' character Seth who is a suicidal teenager. Why he's suicidal might have something to do with the fact that his family is homeless and living with a drug dealer named Sniffer. Seth also claims to be an outcast among them, and you see how he's clearly lonely and depressed. He has friends but apparently they're all suicidal too. Seth's only outlet appears to be a video blog.
Craven was friends with Sniffer prior to Seth's arrival, so when Seth and his family started living there, Craven got regular access to Seth. Craven saw Seth as a potential candidate to become a serial killer. Besides Seth's first kill, which involved a bag over someone's head and a baseball bat, none of the other kills in this movie are particularly thrilling. Craven teases people and acts like a scary menace, but you hardly ever see him kill any one on screen.
This movie perhaps lacks the realism of Head Case and seems to be more fantasy sequences, more fictionalized and less believable. Cray's character of Craven is just so over-the-top and so comical in many ways. At least with McCloskey's character, he had a weird charm. Craven on the other hand is just weird. I can imagine that if there were a family of serial killers, such as in Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects or Bryan Bertino's The Strangers, there probably would be a guy like Craven amongst them.
I would have loved to have seen more interaction though, in terms of dialogue, between Seth and his family. Therefore, when the moment arrived that Seth had to kill them, there would have been more emotional resonance for the audience. It would also have given Seth a bit more of a conflict and added some weight to the drama of that situation and eventual scenes.
While this movie will most likely be the last installment in what currently is the Head Case trilogy, Spadaccini does leave the movie open for a fourth film. It was never said outright, but in The Ritual, it was hinted that Craven's half-sister named Monica who had been missing and believed dead was actually still alive. Furthermore, it was hinted that Craven had been involved with Monica's disappearance and that he in fact had her stashed away somewhere. The truth and whole truth about what happened to Monica is in somewhat of a question. Spadaccini seems poised to deliver that truth and Monica's inevitable fate in a future film. Until then, this movie seems slightly less satifying than the previous.
Two Stars out of Five.
Unrated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 53 mins.
Playing at the Newark Film Festival
Saturday, 9/25 at 9:45 p.m.
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