Review by Camden Ferrell
Sundance is one of the most famous indie film festivals in the world and while this yearly festival goes on, there is another festival happening in Utah at the same time. The Slamdance Film Festival is a festival that specializes in low-budget independent productions, giving a voice to creators who might otherwise fly under the radar. The Civil Dead is one such movie that premiered in January 2022 at Slamdance. Directed by Clay Tatum, this is a movie that feels like the epitome of quirky indie productions which is both its biggest virtue and its occasional flaw.
Clay is a jaded photographer living a life of mundanity in Los Angeles. While his wife is out of town, he tries to combat his creative block and unemployment and runs into an old friend from back home named Whit. However, he soon discovers something about Whit that leads to an unsettling series of events for Clay. This is a great and simple setup that is actually quite creative for an indie production, but it’s an angle that I’m not going to divulge in this review.
Written by Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, this movie is charming and fresh. The humor in this script is more subtle than explicit and this works at times but not at others. Regardless, it’s hard to deny that this script was written by two people with a passion for creation that counteracts the protagonist’s own ennui. It is far from perfect, but it at least strives to be unique and distinguish itself from the large amount of indie movies that come out every year.
This movie stars Tatum and Thomas as the two leads, and their chemistry is what really makes this movie shine. Even when the script has its problems and there are problems with execution, they both still play off of each other very well. Their performances aren’t revolutionary by any means, but they fit perfectly with the characters they’re playing.
Despite a really interesting premise, there are times where the film’s monotony can become too much for the viewer. It’s full of quirky indie sensibilities that make it interesting but can also be too indulgent for its own good. It has interesting themes that will resonate with certain demographics better than others, and it has more working for it than against it.
The Civil Dead is an indie movie that gives one hope for the future of independent cinema even if it is flawed. It’s far from great, but it’s a nice indie feature that shows off the creative talents of its writers and director, and even if you don’t like this movie, you will probably be rooting for these guys and their careers in the future.
The Civil Dead is in theaters February 3.