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Jamie Marks is Dead (Movie Review)

Aug. 29, 2014by: Chris Bumbray

Watch it on VOD here!

PLOT: When an outcast local teen, Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) is found dead, two of his former classmates, Adam (Cameron Monaghan) and Gracie (Morgan Saylor) try to learn more about him, and in the process discover that just because he’s dead, doesn’t mean he doesn’t still exist in some form.

REVIEW: JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD is an intriguing change of pace for director Carter Smith. Rather than be pigeonholed following his underrated feature debut, THE RUINS, Smith has gone indie to craft a dark, cerebral type of supernatural thriller that’s the perfect antidote to the young adult stories about the afterlife (IF I STAY being a good example) that are now in vogue. Based on a YA book itself, JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD present a disturbing look at a far from cuddly after-world, where souls in need of a reckoning wander around in a kind of constant limbo, waiting for someone that can finally see them.

For Marks, a bullied, possibly gay teen, that someone is local boy Adam (Monaghan) a popular athlete in the midst of his own crisis. While he seems to have everything going for him , in reality he’s troubled with his home life in shambles, with a bullying older brother, and a newly wheelchair bound mother (Liv Tyler) who inconceivably, has become best friends with the very woman (Judy Greer) who crippled her while drunk. Meanwhile, his burgeoning relationship with local vixen Gracie (Saylor) isn’t going much better, with him holding back anytime things between them get sexual.

It’s established early-on that both Gracie and Adam can see Jamie, but he’s only able to make a mark on Adam’s life, as he’s the only one who tries to actively confront Jamie and find out about him. Jamie himself is a tragic figure, a boy who was mercilessly bullied by his schoolmates, who of course are the first ones to turn on the waterworks once he’s dead. When he’s forgotten, Jamie finds himself pulled deeper into limbo, and it’s only his relationship with Adam that allows him to exist, but the closer the two boys get, the deeper Adam gets pulled into his grim, supernatural world.

One thing JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD is not is uplifting. This is dark and unsettling, and the vision of afterlife provided here is pretty grim, with most of the color drained from Jamie’s world, and most of his fellow spirits being restless and angry, such as local girl who – every day – choses to relive the moment she murdered her abusive parents. Despite the source material, this is more DONNIE DARKO-styled than anything you’re ever likely to see open on 3000 screens, although that’s what makes it really worth watching.

While it’s being sold as horror, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to describe it as such. It has jump moments and it’s certainly unsettling, but maybe “supernatural drama” is a better way to describe it. Smith’s has made a very sophisticated looking movie, with arresting cinematography by Darren Lew (who shot his short BUGCRUSH) and an evocative soundtrack by Francois-Eudes Chanfrault (HIGH TENSION, INSIDE).

The acting is terrific, with Cameron Monaghan from TV’s SHAMELESS making for a believably conflicted teen, excited by the fact that he finally has someone who seems to get him, even if they happen to be dead. Noah Silver, from TYRANT, plays Jamie as fragile and kind, but also angry over the world that pretty much shit on him from the day he was born, only to cast him aside in death. Another TV teen, HOMELAND’s Morgan Saylor, does a lot with her part as Monaghan’s more sexually experienced girlfriend, who becomes more and more resigned to Adam’s growing bond with Jamie as the film goes on. The biggest names here are Liv Tyler and Judy Greer, although both have relatively little to do, and seem to have been mostly added as marquee-value.

Hopefully people will give JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD a shot, as it’s a captivating little sleeper, and a pretty intelligent piece of genre cinema that could get a cult following somewhere down the line provided people see it. It’s well worth checking out.

Watch it on VOD here!

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