Written & Directed by: Duane Michals
STARRING: Alison Reed, Michael Scalisi, Jordan Loewenstein, Whitney Harris, Tom Frueh, Lulu Ward, Duane Michals, Tim Soter
Abra Cadaver is a quirky eight minute short by the prolific artist and filmmaker Duane Michals. The story follows an evening at the ‘Hocus Pocus society’ – a gathering of magicians who spend their evening discussing tricks – but one by one the participants appear to start dropping dead.
There is a clear sense of a visual imagination in this piece - the opening shot is a walking POV of two wine glasses on a tray, as a waiter moves through a beautiful period apartment; and the camera feels as though it has a personality and dynamism as it moves from conversation to conversation - swirling and dropping to the ground like the characters themselves when another of the magicians unexpectedly snuffs it.
The production design and setting is rich and sumptuous - and there is a clear attempt to use interesting camera angles and movement within the film. It has a zany tone, with wacky jokes as part of the dialogue, and a hilarious performance from Michals himself as an elderly musician who keeps his brain inside his oversized hat. At the end, there is a fun and genuinely surprising reveal regarding who is holding the camera – which explains some of the unusual antics of the piece.
One area that feels a little amateur, however, is in the performances. These feel improvised and somewhat lacking in direction; some of the performers look uncomfortable or a little wooden, and what comes across is the performance rather than the character. This may of course be deliberate; Michals’ work usually has a madcap, tongue-in-cheek tone, so this may all be part of the sense of humour; and a reflection of the fact that the magicians live their lives in a state of pretence; where, like the magic act they perform, nothing is real and everything is an illusion.
Want us to write a professional review of your film? Go to our submissions page and select 'Film Review'