I know what you’re thinking, guys, and you’re thinking that maybe I should take an experiment of death on my own! Is that what you wanted!? Wow, you guys have been really mean lately. The Dead Experiment is another film that I really knew nothing about, but is playing at Fantasia International Film Festival and, hey, sometimes you gotta take risks. Wait, you guys probably expected me to make some sort of joke about sexual experimentation, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?! I know you guys all too well. One thing I can tell you is that most of my sexual experiments involve the other party wishing they were dead, so I guess the two types of experiments aren’t mutually exclusive? Uh oh, this is getting weird. Nobody actually reads this stuff, do they? Do they? Hello?
WE’RE DOING SCIENCE!!!!!!!!
Once Chris (Ryan Brownlee) finally stumbles home from wherever he might have been, his girlfriend Maddie (Jenna Jade Rain) is terrified, surprised, and confused. Chris isn’t really sure why he’s getting this reaction from his longtime girlfriend, until she mentions to him that he died two weeks earlier. Now that he’s very much alive, Chris explains that he had been working on an experimental procedure that would be dead cells back to life. Before the financiers shut the project down, him and his partner Jacob (Jamie Abrams) took the testing up a notch by testing the procedure on Chris. Even though they’re all excited about the groundbreaking discovery that the two have made, Jacob explains to Chris that the mouse they tested the procedure on right before it was tested on Chris ultimately ended up dying, despite initial success. Chris, Jacob, and Maddie all face the question of whether they go public with this information about reanimation and deal with the ramifications, all while Chris starts to deteriorate once again. The trio end up having to make a decision about whether their success in the scientific community is what’s most important or if finding a “cure” for Chris is the better decision to take.
LOOK AT ALL OF THIS SCIENCE!!!!!!!!
I know that I mentioned in my review for Antisocial just how much I hate reviewing movies by comparing them to other movies, but I’m going to do it again. If you don’t like that, then you can fuck right off. Despite the ideas of zombification and reanimation, which are typically found in horror films, The Dead Experiment played out much more like a science fiction film, as nothing “horrific” really happened. The scientific approach towards the idea of reanimation of the dead and weighing the pros and cons of sharing this information with the rest of the world reminded me a lot of Primer, a film about two guys who discover time travel and keep it to themselves. Also similar to Primer is the way the filmmakers were able to take this big scientific discovery and ground it in one location, which was Chris and Maddie’s house. Seeing these characters going through their conflicting opinions about these discoveries were far more interesting than seeing the results of bringing this knowledge to the rest of the world. Even though the film wasn’t scary, it drew comparisons to Re-Animator in the concepts of two young doctors pushing science further than anyone had done before and applying their discoveries to the people they loved. I also couldn’t help but be reminded of the scene in Re-Animator where Herbert West tries to bring a dead cat back to life when Chris and Jacob dig up Maddie’s recently deceased dog to try out their formula on it, without the expected results. It didn’t dawn on me until the very end and with a specific musical cue, but giving your main character a timeline and kind of hoping for the best as they try to find a solution and ultimately knowing they can’t beat the clock reminded me a lot of Moon and the way that the Sam clone was deteriorating throughout the film. Even though The Dead Experiment reminded me a lot of other films, it never really felt like it was stealing from any of them and felt more influenced by them, and those are three movies that I really enjoy. Add to that an ambiguous sound effect right before the credits that make you wonder what really happened to these three characters makes the film a short (74 min.) and sweet exploration of the dangers and benefits of scientific discovery.
EDITOR’S UPDATE: While gathering more information about The Dead Experiment, I saw that even Fantasia described this film as being somewhere between Re-Animator and Primer, so even though you might think I was coping them, I wasn’t! Seriously! I just calls ’em as I sees ’em!
Wolfman Moon Scale