Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
There are three well-known facts when it comes to our existence: We're born, we live, and we die. However, what happens when we do die? Do our souls travel on to Heaven? Do some of us go to Hell for our sins? Are we stuck in some sort of proverbial Limbo that's nothing but torture? Do we get reincarnated? Can we go from Heaven to Hell over certain issues and vice-versa? None of us know for sure what the afterlife is about, but it doesn't mean some of us don't have our own interpretations and ideas on the issue. Long Island filmmaker Glenn Andrelev decided to put his on film called THE DEED TO HELL, where it's implied that we're all on a road to Hell. While this is fine and dandy and the film isn't totally a bad one, THE DEED TO HELL has a pretty misleading title.
THE DEED TO HELL starts quickly into the story as a man named Andy (Frank Fanconeri) stumbles into a Brooklyn tattoo parlor bleeding to death due to bullet holes through his chest. Apparently, Andy was part of some bank heist and was double-crossed by an ally named Sal (Glenn Andreiev). Sal isn't a loyal man, as other people he's been very disloyal to are now hunting his ass down. Sal decides to dump his girlfriend, her cat, and his life behind by leaving the country with the money he stole. On a plane to Europe, Sal meets a beautiful woman named Lynell (Shawna Bermender). Extremely mysterious, Lynell hopes to meet up with famous rocker Zad Zolock (James Ian Rankin) for reasons that are not good for Zad. Lynell also has a connection with Vince (Roy Frumkes), a married man in Brooklyn who is married to a shrew of a wife (Wendy Marquez) and has two children who are not considered as good as the neighbor's children in her warped mind. These stories connect together when several of the characters suffer nasty fates that lead them straight to Hell, where they realize the sins they practiced back when they were living.
THE DEED TO HELL is a pretty good low-budget film by Glenn Andrelev. It doesn't follow a single linear narrative like most films do, taking three random stories that all seem to link together as the film rolls on to its climax. We learn that certain characters have very complex lives that effect the lives of characters in stories that they're not really the focus of. It doesn't totally flow together perfectly, but it does work for the most part and see how these characters are effected by the same themes and situations. It never feels forced and you actually become interested in why certain people chose a particular path over another, leading to consequences that become quite dire.
The script was very well written and I found the story to be pretty entertaining. I do feel that THE DEED TO HELL is marketed to the wrong crowd though. It's branded as a horror film, but it's not even close to being one. Why? Because it's not scary. Nothing pops out to make you jump or contains any themes that could creep you out. Plus the whole "Hell" subplot seems to be an afterthought until the very end, where it doesn't lead to nowhere in particular. I understood why Andrelev was trying to convey with the whole Hell subtext and where he wanted to go with it, but it was never developed enough for it to have any sort of effect on the viewer. It was like, "we die and we have to suffer for all of eternity because of the sins that led us to our deaths". We get people having their flesh torn apart, cutting themselves, and being tortured in other ways that relate to their biggest sin such as greed and wrath. But it's only a focus for almost ten minutes of the film. I honestly didn't see the point of this "Hell" thing, even though I liked the idea of suffering after death.
The film felt more like a crime drama/family drama than a horror film. We had chases on foot, people aiming and shooting guns at each other, fights over issues such as money, popularity, and perfection, and so on. It was like watching Sopranos-lite mixed with Brothers and Sisters, or some show like that. I found the whole family subplot with the frustrated husband and sons dealing with the overbearing and shrew of a wife and mother to be the most interesting. All she cared about was being better than her neighbors because she felt they had it all: the perfect home, the perfect marriage, the perfect children, etc. It led to her husband having an affair with a self-destructive female out for revenge on a rock star who murdered her best friend, the oldest son cutting himself to deal with his feelings, and the youngest son being introverted through most of it until something horrible happens to one of the family members. It was developed enough for me to understand the feelings of each family member and realizing that I would have left that horrible woman the moment she opened her stupid mouth. The Sal crime stuff was okay as well, as it set up Lynell's introduction and her story. I wish I could have learned more about Sal and why he was just a traitorous bastard, but I understood enough to know this guy wasn't a decent human being. So all in all, not totally bad storytelling but it did leave some more to be desired.
The direction was good for a low budget film. Andreiev doesn't change the ways of directing a film, but there's a lot of heart and ambition here that's to be appreciated. Andreiev wanted to show us how self-destructive these feelings of revenge, greed, and pride are to our society and I pretty much got it. Decent editing, a nice pace, and great use of cinematography and location [film takes place in New York, Greece, Paris, and Italy I believe]. I also thought the make-up and effects were well done and the shots of Hell with their reds and blues was a nice touch. I've seen a lot worse with most independent films like THE DEED TO HELL. This was definitely one of the better ones I've seen technical-wise.
The acting was also pretty decent as well. The one that stood out was Shawna Bermender as Lynell. She is a very good actress with a very interesting role of a woman who's torn with moving on after her best friend's death and attempting an act of vengeance on the man who killed her. She's also the mistress of a married man, which we never really know how that really came about. But Bermender knows how to deliver her lines and use her body language and facial expressions to convey what the character is feeling and thinking. I liked her here. Glenn Andreiev as Sal happened to be very annoying, as he was a slimeball who just gabbed and gabbed and gabbed until I wanted someone to put a muzzle in his mouth. But that was really the point of the character and for me, it worked. Wendy Marquez as the bitch wife/mother Anna really made me boil. She's the type of woman that makes me glad that I'm single at the moment. She was never satisfied with her life and took it out verbally on her own husband and children, blaming rock music as the cause to their supposed failure and destruction. I'm sure there are women like her in real life and I couldn't see myself staying married to one. No wonder her husband had an affair with Lynell. Anna's oldest son, Damon (played by Paul Askedall), had my sympathy as he just wanted to be a normal teenager and was treated second best to the neighbor's kid. He had a habit of cutting himself to deal with his emotional problems that led to a very horrible ending. And James Ian Rankin as Zad Zolock was okay as the rock star. I don't get his appeal or why he's so famous. He was just some skinny idiot to me. But then again, I don't get the appeal of THE HILLS, so there ya go. We also have a cameo by Michael Lohan, which just makes the film more surreal. If I had to pick the scariest part of the film, that would probably be it.
Seriously, THE DEED TO HELL is a pretty decent indie flick that's not a good horror film but a watchable action drama. Glenn Andreiev seems to be a filmmaker on the rise and I hope he continues making films. At least he put forth an effort unlike some of the other indie horror films I've seen. Plus the acting was good and the story wasn't too bad. THE DEED TO HELL isn't a hellish watch, but it's not exactly heavenly either. Still I think people should give this one a chance.