11th Jul2018

‘Dead Celebrities’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Michael Fausti, Louise Nosbod, Mathew Bayliss | Written and Directed by Michael Fausti

dead-celebrities-poster

Mick (Michael Fausti) works as a hotel maintenance man. He is interested in dead celebrities, wants to be famous and has found a secret which connects the two. Whilst attending a leaky tap with his colleague Joe (Mathew Bayliss) they strike up a conversation and the question is raised “What do Lenny Bruce, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley all have in common?” The answer may be surprising, but the secrets behind it are even more so, because if you want to be famous you have to make sacrifices.

Dead Celebrities is an impressive new short film from writer-director Michael Fausti, who once again delivers something unexpected, which makes it difficult to review because you don’t want to give too much away.

The story is based around Mick, who is obsessed with a number of dead celebrities and the real-life events which tie them together. As Mick he begins to explain the connections to his colleague Joe, we get to see these events recreated through a series of flashbacks, which also uncover a more sinister underling theme. One of the film strengths is the underlining fact that the main incidences are based on real life events, but Michael manages to blur the line between fact and fiction, by adding his own darker conspiracies into the mix. This makes it difficult at times to distinguish between the truth and what ideas have been devised for the film.

One particular scene which led me to a google search was Claude François or ‘The French Elvis’ as he is referred to in the film. Claude François was at the peak of his success when he was accidently electrocuted after trying to change a flickering lightbulb whilst in the shower. As ludicrous as this idea may be, this was not the main reason I was searching the internet, although I was surprised to see that this was the recorded cause of his death. After watching the film, I was actually searching for a much darker scenario connected to Claude François, which for me is also one of the most powerful moments.

The overall film has an aged grindhouse look and deliberately has a slight distortion to the footage which adds a slight age and wear to the film. This adds to the present scenes with Mike, where the light vibrant colours coordinate well with the soundtrack to create an 80’s feel. The flashback scenes however, which have been stylised to incorporate both the time and personalities of the celebrities, have a cold melancholier feel, with the minimal lighting helping to create an enclosed feel.

In addition to his directorial duties Michael not only takes on the character Mick, but also the pinnacle celebrities in the film including Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison. Apart from Mick who he plays with a self-assured east London attitude and a dry humour, the celebrities are silent roles, with the events and history narrated by Mick. Michael does a good job encapsulating the persona for each character in the short but effective scenes and delivers a more subtle reference to avoid going into a parody. My personal favourite is the brooding portrayal of director Tod Browning, who is best known for bringing Dracula (1931) and the controversial film Freaks (1932). Filmed in black and white, the scenes make use of the lighting and shadows to acknowledgement the look and style of the time.

Dead Celebrities has a dark brooding tone throughout, but there are also some elements of dark comedy which derives from Mick, whose dry humour comes across as both amusing and disturbing in equal measures. It is the balance of both content and the visual delivery from Mick with his grimacing smile and deadpan delivery which add weight to his comments where he seems to have an impertinence to the subject.

The film doesn’t rely on the blood to create an impact, although there are several graphic scenes which catch the viewer off guard. It leads the viewer into a false sense of security by taking a more comical tone, before disrupting the moment with an unexpected moment of violence and some clever editing. In contrast however, the film also builds up the apprehension with some of the more serene moments, with slow lingering shot which gradually reveal the results of the events which have already happened.

Dead Celebrities is another brilliantly creative and intelligent thriller from Michael Fausti, which once again challenges the audience. Building a story based on facts, it draws you into the conspiracies which makes it difficult at times to decipher the truth from the filmmaker’s creative licence. Either way the film definitely makes an impact with the audience and stays with you long after the final credits role.

Like Michael ‘s previous short film The Ingress Tapes (2017), Dead Celebrities will be touring the festival circuits and is a film which is best seen without any spoilers. He is definitely one of the most original and talented upcoming filmmakers from the UK and with his feature Exit currently in production he is definitely someone to watch out for in the future.

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