Among the Dead (1995): Glen Coburn’s Dreary Portrait of Untalented B-movie Director

USA Film Fest, Dallas 1995–Among the Dead is a dreary, self-referential portrait of an untalented B-movie director, whose ruthless ambition throws him literally into the abyss.

Pic’s relentless gloom, monotonous mood, and lack of emotional payoff result in a viewing experience that’s almost as dreary and depressing as the story itself, which makes theatrical release a theoretical issue.

One hopes writer-director Glen Coburn’s short stint in L.A. as would-be filmmaker was not as bleak as that of its protagonist, would-be filmmaker Randy Calhern (Craig Dupree). Randy seems to have one motivation in life: getting his script read by a powerful agent or executive. But he’s also unpleasant and self-destructive, skidding into a boozy, miserable existence. As if this is not enough, late at night Randy is haunted by ghosts of the Hollywood immortals he admires.

Drama centers on Randy and his encounters with his good-hearted brother, Mark (Mark Pearson), who really wants to help him; his gay neighbor, Curtis (Richard Dale Murphy), who never leaves his house and is all too willing to listen to his complaints; and an older, lonely woman, Diana Van Houten (Louanne Stephens), a former actress who also resides in his building and ends up in bed with him when he promises her a comeback in his new movie.

It’s never clear how gifted Randy is or what really makes him run, as tale relates a constant stream of nasty rejections and personal disappointments. Regrettably, for the most part, writer-director Coburn rehashes familiar cliches about Hollywood as a ruthless, cutthroat industry. Worse yet are the narrative’s pretentious texture and visual look, and its underlying sentimentality. Tale suggests some possibility for Randy’s redemption, when his brother talks him into reconciliation with his long-estranged dad.

Pic’s dramatic and technical qualities deteriorate severely from reel to reel, and an extended running time of 110 minutes doesn’t help matter either. At the end, when Randy falls victim to random violence outside of his house, viewers might sigh with relief instead of sympathy.

Credits

A Desperate Pictures production. Produced by Glen Coburn and Kay Bay. Directed, written by Coburn. Camera (B&W), Russell Blair; editor, Blair, Coburn; music, Mark Ridlen; production design, Bay; sound, Peter J. Verrando; make-up, Julie Janes; casting, Julia Dyer. Reviewed on videocassette (In USA Film Fest, Dallas). Running time: 110 min.

Cast

Randy Calhern……….Craig Dupree
Diana Van Houten…Louanne Stephens
Mark Calhern………..Mark Pearson
Curtis……….Richard Dale Murphy
John Perkins………..Peter Lovett