Review by Mark Schwab
July 3rd, 2017
The choices to be made when a loved one passes on border on the bizarre; from funerals to cremation to burials to coffins to being made into an orb that grows into a tree...they are all strange (and let's face it - expensive) when viewed from a distance and stressfully personal when it's all right in front of you. Director Sean Patrick Dahlberg's 10+ minute short film UNTIL DEATH takes the subject into some clever and macabre areas which should entertain the viewer for the length of its runtime.
The opening sequence is perfectly twisted as we are shown an informercial for the TaRa-5000 - a sort of stuffed (I think) corpse version of your dead loved one. It's a little murky as to whether this is the exact body of your loved one or a super-detailed mannequin but that didn't detract much. We are then introduced to Michael (Stas Drakos) - a bereaved widower drowning himself in booze - who jumps at the chance to purchase a TaRa-5000 version of his recently dead wife (Alexis Drakos).
After receiving his "product", he does all the things you'd think one would do in this psychotic situation; he takes her to the park, makes her dinner, watches T.V. on the couch with her...the blank 1000-yard stare always frozen on her face as he contorts her body as need be.
Things start to devolve though when his "wife" starts to seemingly make decisions outside of Michael's wishes (i.e. finding her sitting in the kitchen after leaving her in the dining room).
All of this is very well shot and edited and (except for the informercials) surprisingly dialogue-free. Surprising in a very good way as it adds to the atmosphere to just have his main characters react instead of some kind of silly, "thinking-out-loud" running commentary. Both Stas and Alexis Drakos are wonderful in those reactions and the physical blocking and direction of them is very confident.
The ending of UNTIL DEATH is a bit of a head-scratcher but it's a good head scratcher that will inspire conversations and interpretations. I myself am still not 100% sure of what Dahlberg means by it by I'm intrigued rather than frustrated which is a good sign. I do wish the overall tone was a bit more consistent though - it never quite commits to either pitch black comedy or ghastly horror but the groundwork was laid for each.
That's a small quibble though. UNTIL DEATH is a nicely executed piece of grimness with an ending that David Lynch would be proud to have conceived.