Sarah (Stefanie E. Frame) has recently returned to her hometown and taken a job with a local catering firm. She finds herself working the wake of a former classmate, Hank Boyd who hung himself in jail after being arrested for a string of murders. Expecting a slow, if somewhat uncomfortable afternoon, things change when she overhears a conversation between Hanks brother David (David Christopher Wells) a police detective and his partner Ray (Michael Hogan). Realizing they’ve been overheard they turn on Sarah. This sets off a chain of events that sees all manner of dark family secrets including who is the father of sister Aubrey’s (Liv Rooth) unborn child. As secrets are revealed and the body count grows everything spirals out of control and the history of the Boyd family is revealed. And did I mention Baby?
Sean Melia makes his feature length debut as writer and director here and really shows incredible talent. The film manages to straddle several genres, pulling what it needs from each at the right moments. It has moments of incredibly dark humor without ever becoming a comedy, it ventures into the territory of films like Spider Baby without really becoming a horror film, and there’s more than a touch of Southern Gothic like Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte or Dear Dead Delilah. The film also incorporates some interview and home movie footage. This is confusing and annoying at first but as it goes on it makes sense, helping to reveal the history of madness in the Boyd family that has led up to what we are seeing.
The cast match the material and give excellent performances, from what I gather most have a stage background rather than film. Indeed the only one familiar to me was Frame who I had seen in Gravy. She does a great job going between terrified and resourceful as she uses her wits and anything else available to stay alive. Carole Monferdini as the somewhat senile mother also gives a strong performance and Hogan is effectively slimy as Ray.
Shot almost entirely in one location, the film is proof that you can do wonders with the right script even if you’re lacking budget or star power. Keeping it all in the house also adds a sense of claustrophobia to the proceedings as well.
Currently available on Amazon and Amazon Prime among other VOD outlets Hank Boyd is Dead is one of the best films I’ve seen all year.