Most of the films I review fall into one of two categories: films that I backed on Kickstarter (or a similar crowdfunding site), or smaller budget independent films that you are unlikely to have heard of if you’re not already a fan (some of the Scorpio Films Releasing gems come to mind there).
In the case of “Hank Boyd is Dead,” we’re looking at the latter category. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t heard about it either, until I entered and won a free signed DVD of the film. The plot description sounded interesting; otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered entering. (Okay, in all honesty I probably would have entered anyway, because I am a sucker for signed DVDs).
I am happy to report that I was quite entertained by this film. The plot synopsis is general and could go in many directions: “A young woman hired to cater the post-funeral gathering for accused killer Hank Boyd discovers his crimes and death may not be what they seem.” Because Writer and Director Sean Melia takes this story through a number of twists, I don’t want to reveal too much. But I can go into more detail than that synopsis does.
Sarah Walsh (played by Stephanie Frame) is new on the job, working for a local catering company. They’ve been hired to cater at the home of matriarch Beverly Boyd (Carole Montferdini). Her son Hank was accused of murder, and subsequently hung himself in his prison cell. The catering is for any guests who come to visit after his funeral. As no real turnout it expected, and there is problem with another catering job, Sarah is left alone to handle the job while her boss leaves to work across town.
Sarah is soon introduced to the rest of the family: David (David Christopher Wells), who is Hank’s older brother and a police detective; and Aubrey (Liv Roth), his flaky younger sister. She also bumps into Ray Moon (Michael Hogan), David’s partner and a former schoolmate of hers, who is keeping any unwelcome visitors away from the home. And from that point, the slow spiral begins.
One review I read on IMDB called “Hank Boyd is Dead” a spoof of detective films. I didn’t get that impression at all. From my perspective it was more of a character study into a very strange family, and an attempt to imagine what type of family could produce a deranged killer. Stefanie Frame holds things together very well as protagonist Sarah, but for me the star was David Wells. His seamless shifting from one attitude to another as he walks from room to room was creepy but not overacted. As a matter of fact, as the spiral of the story goes wider and wider, the cast manages to avoid any over-the-top cliché performances. I was momentarily worried about the character of Aubrey but – like the rest of the characters – she had more depth than initially revealed. I have a bias in favor of films that give us more of a character than is absolutely necessary, and Sean Melia seems to agree with that in the way each persona is fleshed out (both in back story and simple conversation).
With low budget independent films, if you have a good script and a strong cast, the other two major stumbling blocks are always sight and sound. Too often lack of funds results in a poorly shot film, or one with insufficient editing, or (my biggest pet peeve) an inaudible dialogue track. “Hank Boyd is Dead” has none of those problems. The plot doesn’t require anything beyond its modest set, and both the sound and the cinematography are well done. The changes in shot distance and angle help build suspense when that is needed, but cuts are smooth enough not to distract from the story itself. For a less-experienced Director that can be a very delicate balance, but Melia handles it well.
If you enjoy character-driven independent films that don’t shy away from taking some chances, “Hank Boyd is Dead” is well worth your time.