Living Death (2006)
By: Craig Villinger on April 27, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Peace Arch Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 85 minutes
The Movie
Director: Erin Berry
Starring: Kristy Swanson, Greg Bryk, Josh Peace
Screenplay: Erin Berry
Music: Brendan Steacy
Tagline: Scream all you want. He enjoys it.
Country: Canada
Everything is peachy for rich playboy Victor (Greg Bryk – the younger diner robbing hoodlum from A History of Violence), who has just inherited his fathers' massive fortune on his 35th birthday. Victor spends his nights drinking and gambling and pointing guns at people who piss him off, and during the day he lounges around his luxurious mansion eating junk food and snorting coke while playing his Xbox. What a life! Victor even has a relatively attractive – not to mention voluptuous – wife (Kristy Swanson – the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer), yet he feels the need to pick up cheap looking skanks to help indulge his darker appetites, which include brutalizing women on medieval torture devices.

Yes, Victor is a total cinematic sleaze ball.

No surprise then to learn that the well endowed wife is sleeping with his best friend, and that the lovers have concocted a scheme to bump off Victor and snatch his inheritance. A scheme which, about halfway through the film, goes off without a hitch. Well, except for one hitch. Victor doesn't actually die! You see, their method of choice was poisoning, and their poison of choice was venom from a Chinese Puffer Fish (!), which doesn't actually kill Victor – it just paralyzes him and lowers his vital signs so that everyone thinks he's dead. A few days later, after witnessing his own funeral and enduring a few awkward moments on the morgue slab, Victor regains control of his body, and boy is he pissed off. Naturally, revenge is the soup of the day…

Living Death is a terrible movie to be quite honest, but for some reason it is almost worth recommending. The whole "jilted wife and her lover plotting to bump off the slimy rich husband" bit has been done to death already, but despite this flimsy premise Living Death does occasionally flirt with the idea of providing some entertainment value. Director Erin Berry, working with a dialogue heavy script, somehow manages to keep things pacy and makes good use of limited locations, while gore lovers should enjoy the sparsely used yet nasty effects – including a messy finale where one character is ripped apart and another loses his intestines, as well as an engrossing sequence where a trio of unknowing med students slice open the not-quite-dead Victor and fiddle with his insides while he is powerless to resist!

There are a few problems though. Not a whole lot happens for much of the film, and there were a couple of "tense" scenes that just don't work. Also, I never knew who we were supposed to be rooting for. Victor is a sleaze bag for sure, but then the wife and best buddy are a couple of gold digging murderers. Are we supposed to care about any of them? Maybe not. Many of the films shortcomings could perhaps be put down to a lack of budget and a lack of time, but others – like Swanson's dodgy acting and the grating musical score – could not.

Living Death is basically a generic, un-inspiring thriller with three decent horror set pieces seemingly added to give it a broader appeal. The splattery moments are sure to please, but take away the opening and the final fifteen minutes and you'd have nothing more than one of those crappy made for daytime TV thrillers that always seem to be playing on Channel 7, and I don't think anyone wants to sit through another of those.
For a low budget straight to DVD release Living Death has been given a solid anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. The image is sharp, and colours are generally rich and vibrant, although a few minor source deficiencies are evident.
Living Death comes with a 5.1 audio track which was always clear and easy to understand, but you could be forgiven for thinking your rear speakers might be playing up, as, apart from the odd musical cue, the full soundstage is rarely used.
Extra Features
A twenty minute making-of which features a few cast and crew interviews and too much footage from the film itself, along with trailers for Living Death, Dead Mary, Warriors of Terra, UKM: Ultimate Killing Machine, and Troubled Waters.
The Verdict
Don't let the cover – with its chained screaming girl and hooks and all that - fool you into thinking this is another of those films that the mainstream press has affectionately dubbed "Torture Porn", because it's a long from anything like Hostel or Saw. Sure, a couple of characters do suffer some unpleasantness on The Rack, but torment isn't its raison d'etre - it's merely used as window dressing. Soft-core Torture Porn could be the new phrase of the day to describe stuff like this.

The film itself is competent but unspectacular, and a brief making-of and a few trailers aren't enough to justify importing the disc. If Living Death ever gets a local release it might be worth an overnight rental, but don't go out of your way to procure a copy.
Movie Score
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