A Grim Becoming (2014)

Death, it can be a bitch, or in the case of the new film from Adam R. Steigert and Buffalo, NY based DefTone Productions, Death can be a big fat guy with a sardonic wit and an overwhelming desire to keep balance in the universe. One of Deaths other responsibilities is to initiate new "reapers" into the death dealing trade. Unfortunately for Death, his newest charge, Raphael, is less than enthused about dealing death to an unsuspecting public.

It's a story that's been told again and again, from the recent brilliant but cancelled show "Reaper," to the excellent Piers Anthony book, 'On a Pale Horse,' a newly crowned reaper or grim reaper is reluctant to accept his new position. In most of those stories though, the Reaper learns that what heA Grim Becoming turns that popular trope on it's head and gives it's protagonist a way out...all while sprinkling in a whole lot of John Waters humor and some Highlander mythology for good measure.does fulfills a necessary function in the cosmic wonders of the galaxy.

Raphael is kind of an ass. He's your stereotypical rich guy, rude to everyone he interacts with, and a dick to all that try to humanize him. When his nephew dies in a freak Halloween accident, he is called to his hometown outside of suburban Buffalo. He runs over a homeless guy with his Lincoln (no word if he drove a Lincoln even before he got paid to drive a Lincoln) he mistakenly catches a Reaper coming for the homeless mans soul and intervenes. By the rules set forth by Death, that means he must take the fallen Reapers spot. Something Raphael is rather resistant to. When Death is forced to go to Life (the always wonderful Jessica Cameron) to right an unfortunate wrong he perpetrated, Raphael tags along and uses the moment to ask Life about an escape plan, he finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

A Grim Becoming is an odd film. Tonally, it's kind of all over the place. Is it a John Waters inspired dark comedy? Or is it a horror film with comedic elements. In truth the film really doesn't know what it really wants to be. There are legitimate heavy moments involving Devanny Pinns character. But they are overwhelmed by the rest of the films silliness, rendering them meaningless. I love Pinn. She was great in Camerons Truth or Dare and Brandon Slagles The Black Dahlia Haunting, but she's woefully wasted in a do nothing storyline that frankly is more confusing to the feel of the film than it is useful.

The films other big miss has to do with Raphael as a character, or rather his introduction.  His introductory scene is painful for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is the fact that he comes off as such an ego-maniacal jerk. Why do we want him to succeed in throwing off the shackles of being a reaper? Protagonists can have shades of gray, but "asshole" isn't exactly a shade, it's the whole damn painting.

That being said, A Grim Becoming is a pretty good independent horror film. The acting is a bit all over the place, like most small budget films that rely on many, lets call them, less then professional actors. The four biggest names in the film, Bill Oberst Jr., Lynn Lowry, Pinn, and Cameron, are excellent. Oberst seems to be relishing in playing a bit against type here. He's still a creepy guy, but a funny creepy guy, in that weird Iggy Pop in Cry-Baby sort of way. More Cameron would have been better, but it looks like the production only had her for a day, so for what they had to work with it works.

The real highlight of the film, and the performance that frankly, keeps it grounded and from going completely off the rails is that of Michael Sciabarrasi as Magoo/Death. Not only is his make up some of the best that I've seen in an independent horror film in a long time, but his performance is equal halves menacing and tongue in cheek, with just enough gravitas to inspire that touch of fear the film loses at times.

A Grim Becoming struggles with the type of film it really wants to be early, but once it finds that balance between a John Waters/David Lynch pseudo-comedy and a Felini morality tale it becomes a damn fine independent film. You can find out more regarding A Grim Becoming at deftonepicturesstudios.com. Check it out and help support indie horror.

*** stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading, and "enjoy every sandwich."

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