Death In Charge (2008)

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Overall Rating 72%
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Ranked #12,928
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In the tradition of E.C. Horror Comics, this cautionary tale examines life through the eyes of Death who gets derailed when an impatient single Mom carelessly mistakes the scythe-carrying cloaked one for her tardy babysitter and leaves Death to care for her precocious 9-year-old daughter. --TMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: May 20, 2009
Talk about an interesting pairing of genres and ideas: Death in Charge is based on a screenplay written by self-proclaimed "directrix" Devi Snively in response to the Columbine shootings, and in this short film, she attempts to find the reason why some children decide to pick up a gun and shoot other kids. It's also modeled after the old EC comics (that's Tales from the Crypt and its spinoffs for the uneducated), it just so happens to star Death herself, and it's quite literally a timeless film in that one couldn't place it in any specific year or decade. Yes, this is an interesting combination, but I'm pleased to present that it's a damned effective one.

We begin our tale in what would appear to be the fifties, where a young jock is attempting to put the moves on a fresh-faced doe in his car out in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately for him, he's not going to get past first base tonight as she quickly informs him that she has a babysitting job lined up. He's none too happy about this, but his inability to move beyond that first base will soon become the least of his worries as Death decides to show up and take this to-be babysitter away.

Moving ahead to a much more contemporary setting, we find that a snooty mother (Gillian Shure) has plans for a night out on the town with her boyfriend of the moment. Of course, this means that her daughter Whitney (Kylie Chalfa) will be forced to stay with a babysitter, but that doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary in this household. When the babysitter shows up with a hood over her face and a sickle in hand, our naive little Whitney simply assumes that she's one of those goth kids while mother dearest is just happy to finally get on with her evening. What the two don't know is that Death (Marina Benedict) is paying a visit to this house in place of that teenage babysitter, and as the night progresses, Whitney will teach her a thing or two about life while also discovering a few things about death.

Being a huge fan of the horror output of EC Comics, one of the first things that I noticed in the film was the obvious nods and references to their line of comics. I read the mention in the press material, but I wasn't expecting much from it: a tale of revenge, maybe, or a murder victim coming back from the dead. We get none of that, but what we do get is a movie that pays its respects while also staying true to its own way of doing things. Starting the film out in a fifties-era setting was an innovative way of setting the stage in this regard, and even though a true nitpick could say that it doesn't "feel right", I thought that it flowed together perfectly with the main storyline.

Another nod comes courtesy of some subtle imagery placed throughout the film, wherein ordinary environments are given a comical appearance. For example, instead of merely showing that it's dark outside, we're shown this by way of what could easily pass as the backdrop of a comic panel which is imposed over the window. These instances are few and far between and have no major impact on the story itself - this isn't Roger Rabbit, after all - but they do add a visually-appealing layer to the film. They do tend to slow down once the story proper kicks in so as, assumedly, not to detract from the real meat of the film, but I enjoyed the bits and pieces that I got.

Speaking of the story proper, I suppose that I should point out that this was by far one of the biggest perks of the entire affair. Sure, the visuals and the references were nice, but you have to have something to compliment those in order to produce an enjoyable evening in front of the tube. Death in Charge presents us with a tale that is simple in its complexity (or is that complex in its simplicity?) while successfully presenting one of Snively's possible answers to her own question: what could drive a child to kill another human being? I wouldn't classify the film as a heartfelt drama and nor would I label it as a documentary, but the underlying ideas will certainly strike close to home for some. It's a horror film with comedic undertones that presents legitimate issues without pushing them - now that is how movies should work.

Of course, the film would have took a hit if not for the acting abilities of the two leading ladies, but fortunately, both of them were exceptional in their roles. Marina Benedict as Death is by far the brightest spot of the film, as Benedict takes on a role that could have been silly and makes it both believable and enjoyable to watch. She has a way of using her facial expressions to communicate things that mere words could never express, but that is certainly not to say that the woman can't deliver a line when needed. This is a woman who is destined for bigger things, and getting an early peek at her work here was a treat to say the least.

Kylie Chalfa is on the other side of the coin as the young daughter, and surprisingly, the lass turned in a great performance as well. I'm usually not too keen on children starring in movies that were made for adults, but Chalfa made me put my bias aside. Was she perfect? Not quite, as there was a scene or two that I personally would have reshot; however, for a child whose age probably hasn't hit the double digits yet, I have to applaud her work. She was certainly better than the vast majority of child actors working today, and given the nature of the film, I was amazed that she was able to carry her fair share... but she did.

If you hadn't picked up on it yet, I loved this film. I loved the idea behind it, I loved the visuals, I loved the acting, and I particularly enjoyed the ending that is true to the EC Comics line of thinking. After the credits rolled upon my initial viewing, I immediately restarted the film for a second viewing just to take it all in again - that right there should speak volumes as to how much I enjoyed those all-too-short fifteen minutes. 10/10.
Crispy #1: Crispy - added May 20, 2009 at 9:41pm
Agree whole heartedly. Great little flick, and I feel bad for putting it off for so long.
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