Dead In France is a film by Kris McManus in collaboration with Jack Hillgate. Together they wrote the film and Kris McManus essentially comprised the main production crew on the set. As well as writing and directing this film McManus was also the Director of Photography and editor. To say the least, that is quite a lot of work for one person, and it shows.
The film starts off with some great cinematography, and quite honestly does great in this aspect. All of the shots are composed well and the film does have an overall great look to it. Kris McManus is a damn good cinematographer, but it seems that he may have spent most of his time in production on this aspect, while letting the others fall behind. The directing in this film could have used a lot more work. The acting is a bit too on point, and at first it seems very awkward; it rather doesn’t become any less by the end. The film feels far too scripted and it really does not feel as though this was a conscious choice by the filmmakers.
However, mediocre as the acting really is the film ultimately is decently fun in its playful approach to black comedy. Celia Muir (Lisa) really is quite nice to watch on screen and does the film justice even opposite of the overly annoying character Denny played by Darren Bransford. I daresay that he didn’t do too awful either, however diction could have played a much stronger part as it is very hard to understand him as he freaks out through most of the film. Brian Levine (who also produced this) as Charles is a great face, but a deplorable voice. His acting feels entirely too much as though he had spent hours specifically just memorizing lines, instead of feeling them. That brings us to Kate Loustau as Clancy, who is quite a wonderful actress. What a beautiful addition to an otherwise mediocre cast. She has also been in other films such as Elizabeth and Tombe Raider: Cradle of LIfe.
The real problem that this film has is in it’s effects. They are entirely unbelievably tacky and poorly done. Nothing could even pass as real and I couldn’t help but imagine that they were created by a guy who had taken only a few tutorials found on Youtube in order to learn Adobe After Effects. They should have spent a much longer time touching them up, it would have made for a much better experience. The film is in black and white for, what seems, only to cover up these poorly constructed effects. It doesn’t succeed in masking it though.
All in all it is a pretty great student film. The fact that it got a full DVD release is a real win for Kris McManus because it could easily have gone another way for him. Mostly it’s just an incredibly unbelievable chain of events that ends quite poorly. The ending disappoints and doesn’t know whether it is ending or it should keep going, or not… or maybe… or ok now it’s over. Fin Just choose one ending and stick to it! This isn’t the Lord of the Rings.
Good title design/Cinematography. These may be it’s only true redeeming values.