Establishing the proper tone for a film can be very difficult to get just right, especially when your film incorporates elements of black comedy as well as horror. When it works it can be a very entertaining blend of genres that properly balances both, and when it doesn’t, it quickly devolves into a confused mess that serves neither. Today we’ll see if Murder Made Easy is able to strike the right balance with its modern take on an Agatha Christie style murder mystery.
A year after her husband Neil’s death, Joan (Jessica Graham) and her good friend Michael (Christopher Soren Kelly) invite several of their friends over for dinner to discuss and remember Neil. Of course, as the title clearly suggests, there are far more nefarious elements at play here. That’s about as specific as I can get because with a film like this, twists and revelations are a big part of the central experience.
This film definitely does wear its theatrical influences proudly on it’s sleeve, even name-checking Mousetrap several times throughout. In fact, the experience of watching it was very reminiscent of watching a play, and with its heavy emphasis on dialogue and single location, this is a film that could very easily be adapted into a stage production. To be clear, this is not a negative, and the superb acting and engaging plot make use of the single location in the same manner that great theater productions do.
Since theater itself, and in particular a specific production of Mousetrap, are integral to the plot, the centralized location actually works in service of the film to help establish the desired tone and feel. Director David Palamaro is clearly shooting for a specific aesthetic and is able to capture the look and feel of a classy murder mystery incredibly well. The use of music here is spot-on and the different elements of horror, thriller and black comedy are well balanced to create a cohesive experience. Well, mostly…
While I can see why the overall plot itself was structured the way it was, the very device of having sequential guests show up does make much of the general plot rather predictable, and even a bit repetitive. Fortunately, as more of the larger story is revealed most of the characters have enough substance and variety to keep the interactions entertaining throughout…..with the notable exception of Cricket (Emilia Richeson). While most of the other characters are represented as slightly heightened archetypes, Cricket is full-blown New Age stereotype and her segment is the film’s most overt (and misguided) attempt at comedy, and a clear low point in the overall film itself. Had she simply been rewritten as a slightly more realistic character, her segment would have worked far better.
Regardless, this is a very entertaining film overall that knows what it’s going for and embraces it wholeheartedly. Well acted and enjoyable to watch, this is one dinner party you won’t want to be late for.