“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day. No, no, man was made for immortality” – Abraham Lincoln...
...Coming soon to VOD, Immortal combines the vision of four directors (Tom Colley, Jon Dabach, Danny Isaacs, and Rob Margolies) and allows each one to lend a voice and perspective to the concept of living forever. The movie has no distinct through-line connecting its four stories other than the fact that each features a character discovering their immortality for the first time, and that none of the stories give any explanation as to why or how these people became immortal, simply that they are. Immortal characters have long been a topic in movies and literature, whether its mythological gods, blood sucking vampires, or swordsmen looking to take each other’s heads. However, Immortal takes a look at the subject from a much more everyman angle which leads to some very different stories, and tones in general, and some powerful moments. Immortal views the phenomenon through a much less glamourous lens, showing loss, greed, boredom, and agony, and while some of the tales will fade from the viewers memory quickly, others will stick, forever.
No stranger to horror anthologies, Dylan Baker (Trick ‘r Treat) plays Mr. Shagis, an English high school teacher with a passion for literature, but an even stronger passion for protecting his students against predatory gym teachers. As he lectures on the concept of allegory and successfully engages his students, he draws their attention to his student Chelsea (Lindsay Mushett), whom he deems the representation of hope, freedom, and the American dream. She is also the recipient of her coach’s unwanted attention. The male gaze on the girl’s track team sets an unsettling tone as Mr. Jacobs (Michael Shenefelt) observes the runners, and Chelsea in particular. The build-up of the opening short might seem a bit long as we learn lots about allegories and creepy coaches, but the lengthiness makes the abrupt turn in tone and direction that much more delightful and surprising.
“Chelsea” explores the idea that some immortals may eventually grow bored with the more common thrills of life, instead needing to resort to more exciting and deadly hobbies. Baker’s speech explaining the intricacies of forever-life might come off a bit rehearsed and wordy, but perhaps this was an intentional reminder of his role as English teacher, but as usual the character fills his role well.
“Gary and Vanessa”
Brett Edwards and Agnes Bruckner play a couple in the process of readying their home for a new baby. Their current struggles go beyond mere anticipation for the baby, however. They are also severely broke. No money and a baby on the way means Gary must take some extreme measures to provide for his family. So logically, the couple plans a stunt which would involve Gary falling to his death and thus leaving Vanessa and the baby with enough insurance money to thrive. The director attempts to create frustration from Gary and sympathy for Vanessa, but the implausible jump to suicide makes it difficult to feel for either character. This story has an interesting concept but the lack of backstory on why the characters are in this situation, plus an unsatisfactory resolution makes this short the weakest of the collection.
“Ted and Mary”
Another short about a couple, the third story looks at a man and woman who spent a lifetime loving and being strong for each other, now faced with the difficult decision to say goodbye. A film crew arrives at the home of the title characters played by Tony Todd (Candyman) and Robin Bartlett on the day Mary decides to end her life via assisted suicide. Alex (Vanessa Lengies) heads the production team and came to the couple’s house to interview them and learn about their experience with Mary’s cancer and how the two dealt with the disease. Todd and Bartlett appear as an amazing couple who lived a lifetime together with adventures and sadness. Todd’s performance breaks your heart as he reflects on caring for his wife and the pain she continuously experiences. The loving husband expresses deep sorrow and frustration while Bartlett expertly compliments Todd’s character with her strong and thoughtful approach to death. So much emotion went into this short and both leads tell the story flawlessly. Within the shadowy rooms, the short covers a difficult topic with two powerful characters who just exude love and sadness simultaneously. Mentally prepare yourself for this one because the story will take an emotional toll on your heart.
Following the dark backdrop of the previous story, “Warren” opens on Samm Levine spending a bright sunny day at a park playground. The protagonist receives a birthday call from his mother and as the happy pair chats about life Warren’s suddenly ends when a speeding car runs him down. However, the theme of the anthology is immortality, so he quickly awakens in excruciating pain. After his multiple broken bones and cuts disappear, the birthday boy realizes his body now spontaneously heals. Either out of curiosity or boredom, Warren begins testing his body’s abilities and finds several ways to push the limits of his new existence. Once he grows bored with torturing himself, Warren decides to track down the driver who “killed” him. With no fear of death, a life becomes devoid of drive or motivation and the only sense of fulfillment comes from seeking out balance. Levine, usually known for more comical roles, demonstrates his abilities as an intense and ruthless character. The placement of Warren in the collection might not serve as the best conclusion to the film as it is difficult to follow “Ted and Mary.” However, Warren offers the most conclusive ending and bookends the shorts pretty nicely, as only in “Chelsea” and “Warren” does a character acknowledge living as an immortal and the connected difficulties.
All told, Immortal carries some great questions to ponder, twists to enjoy, and some very powerful moments. It frequently leaves the viewer wanting more. Sometimes in a good way, such as wanting to see more of the powerful story of Ted and Mary. But other times it leaves the viewer wanting more explanation or development, as some shorts don’t quite provide enough to get the viewer interested and invested in the outcome. It definitely takes some of the luster away from the idea of living forever, posing difficult questions and situations facing these immortals, which if nothing else is a very refreshing take on the topic.
Immortal is now available on VOD through Stonecutter.
By Amylou Ahava
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