The Deagol Brothers are evil geniuses. A group of friends, with essentially no money (and what money they had raised by performing benefit concerts featuring the film's fabulous soundtrack) managed to make a zombie movie which is also a coming of age story which is also a tale of unrequited love and obsession. That ambitious and astounding film is Make-out With Violence.
The film revolves around the summer after high school graduation for a tight knit group of friends, who are dealing with the disappearance of the enigmatic and widely loved Wendy (Shellie Marie Shartzer). A fairly large cast of characters is involved, but the focus is mostly on twin brothers Patrick and Carol (Eric Lehning and Cody DeVos respectively), their younger brother Beetle (Brett Miller) and Wendy's friend Addy (Leah High) and her friend Anne Harran (Tia Shearer).
On the way home from the memorial service (which had to make do with an empty casket) Carol and Beetle stop to catch cicadas in a field, and perhaps to do a little melancholy reflecting. Instead of cicadas, Beetle finds Wendy tied to a tree. She's not alive. But she's not completely dead either. The boys decide that they have to take her home, and figure out what to do with her. For reasons not entirely explained, perhaps nostalgia or, in Patrick's case, a lingering unrequited love for Wendy, they end up taking her to their friend Rody's house, which they are watching while he is out of town. The next several months are spent tending to the undead girl, figuring out what she likes to eat (live rats for one), washing her, and cleaning up her messes along with all the other things that high school kids do with their free time.
Patrick becomes more and more obsessed with Wendy, even arranging a candle lit dinner for her birthday, even as his brother Carol works hard to gain the romantic interest of Addy. Addy herself is interested in Wendy's boyfriend, while Anne Harran pines after Carol. It's a tasty broth of doomed love all around. Life goes on, but this dream like summer has to end eventually, and it does, with serious dramatic impact.
The tale is told with lots of flashbacks, aided by Beetle's narration, and reminds the viewer of nothing so much as a pleasantly remembered dream or idealized childhood, notwithstanding the grisliness of much of the subject matter. The Deagol's ability to seamlessly combine real tension and dread (not to mention a fair bit of gore) with tenderness and an almost hagiographic evocation of high school summers is astounding. This is polished, professional filmmaking. The performances are spot on, even as they are highly stylized. This isn't real life, but rather a dream like vision of what life should be like, and thus full on realistic performances are not appropriate. False notes are nonexistent here. Make-out With Violence is very much an ensemble piece, but Leah High, Cody DeVos, Eric Lehning and Tia Shearer give particularly fine, nuanced performances. That a film could look this good, and be so finely crafted, with no budget to speak of, and many people working entirely for free, is a testament to the dedication and talent of those involved. Very, very highly recommended.
"The Fugitive Brain" Behind the Scenes
"My Saturday is Now Ruined"
Commentary Featuring the Directors' Younger Brothers: Zach Duensing and Kevin Doyle