Freitag, 10. Oktober 2014

Filmfest Potsdam: Jamie Marks Is Dead

American writer/director Carter Smith's supernatural drama "Jamie Marks Is Dead" plays with interesting themes but the way they come together is so absurd one soon stops to care.

The title doesn't cheat- the meek, badly bullied high school student Jamie Marks is indeed dead from the get-go. He still plays a part in the story though, as his ghost starts to turn up at his classmates' houses. What's annoying about how the plot then unfolds is not that, despite some heavy hints offered later in the film, we never truly find out the why's and how's of Jamie's death. This could still be chalked up to deliberate character-building through mystique and intrigue. The fact that the movie never cares to explain the "laws" of the underworld as envisioned here, how it works and how beings from both sides interact, is very problematic though. It borrows freely from the genres of horror and children's fantasy without ever elaborating on the reasons or rules, so every new development seems disconnected, arbitrary. What makes matters worse is how poorly the motivations are established everywhere in the film. Why the sudden interest of the jock-y Adam in his dead classmate? Why does he decide he needs to get away with Jamie and subsequently pisses off that other ghost Frances? What is with all that "word-feeding" Jamie demands and what puts his troubled soul to rest in the end? Most ridiculous of all is probably the way the two supporting female characters- Adam's mom and the woman who paralyzes her in a car accident- are drawn. This whole subplot actually feels like a strangely irrelevant afterthought, but whenever these two show up, they never fail to sound and act so fake you half expect them to be exposed as just imaginary figures at any moment.

It's apparent the filmmaker wishes to address adolescent sexuality and other subjects such as forgiveness and redemption though all this paranormal activity, but his direction is often wishy-washy/inexpressive where subtlety and clarity are needed. The emptily busy script and only average acting (lead actor Cameron Monaghan is wooden and sometimes stiffer than the dead) don't help either. It's no coincidence that the one place where dramatic pretensions are dropped and we're allowed to just enjoy the spectacle of a mean spirit going berserk- where the much angrier ghost Frances shows her true colors after her place gets burned down- also happens to be the one scene in the whole film that at least stirs up some decent tension.

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