Ever since his wife’s life has staggered on the near brink of death, John’s mental state has been thrust into constant turmoil. Unable to get straight answers from doctors and stuck inside the vapid white walls of a hospital, John remains by his unconscious wife’s hospital bed. When a mysterious man with a severely disfigured face wrapped in bandages offers him a locket that will grant him a single wish, John’s desperation to try anything to save her soul stretches beyond logic and reality, overpowering his rational principles. Despite coming with an ambiguous warning on how to detail his wish, John heedlessly requests that death cease to exist. The locket grants endless life not only for John’s wife, but for everyone as the dead rise from their eternal slumber in perpetual anguish that sends them into a frenzy of violence without a means to an end.
“A Wish for the Dead” is the first venture into a Renegade Art production and a Shami Media Group, or SMG, release for Its Bloggin’ Evil and, to be frank, the viewing re-establishes a couple of important things: 1) “A Wish for the Dead” has tremendous bite for an under the radar flick and 2) never rule out modestly financed films based on their technical appearances. The 2014 micro-budget indie horror from the short film director of “The Confession of Fred Kruger,” Nathan Thomas Milliner, along with the editing, photography, and co-writing assistance from “Girl Number Three” writer Herschel Zahnd, takes the cautionary tale themed with a careful what you wish for approach when despondency has one backed against the wall that leads to direly lethal negligence. Milliner’s film that’s based off a comic book of the same title might not be “Wishmaster,” starring Andrew Divoff, but can certainly be grouped into that similar genre realm where the ugliness of mysticism mischief can be personally devastating instead of gratifying. The film can also be lassoed into the over saturated zombie category because, well, you know, the whole arise of the undead thing.
“A Wish for the Dead” has a fairly large cast, but doesn’t have definitive leads. Instead, Milliner and Zahnd scribe a tale with miniature, personal scenarios for characters with John being a considerable catalyst or, an interpretation, of a centralized character. John’s played by Chris Petty, who had a bit part in the Zac Efron Ted Bundy biopic “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” and despite the character being fairly one dimension, Petty sells the performance of a grieving, greedy husband. John encounters the mysterious, disfigured stranger in a trench coat, head wrapped like a mummy, and nodding John over like a he’s going to sell him a knockoff Rolex from the inside lining of his coat, in Robert Hatfield that tempts him with the wish granting locket. Hatfield version of a biblical villain has charismatic and devilish value, but nothing new to note the rendition from previous performances of shallow humor and sly mischief upon an cutting grin. Branch off stories that indulge into supporting characters un-charmed, demised lives fill in the gaps and provide fuel for the undead fire and these supporting characters include Lori Cooke (“Girl Number Three”), Kristine Renee Farley (Hi-8 – Horror Independent 8), Adam Pepper (“The Zombie Movie”), Julie Strebl (“Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories”) and Ashley Anderson.
The beginning of this film starts off oddly as soon as the title credits roll for the feature film and coming to the realization that the viewer is actually not submersed into the actual story yet. First slither portion of the film is a short thriller, noted at the conclusion as being directed also by Milliner, that becomes clearly distinct from the rest of the plot line. The abnormal sequence snaps the story’s fluidity as a seamed segue that then constructs the multiple-tiered building blocks for the heart of the feature. Once the short has past, much to our chagrin that we believed to be the actual film, “A Wish for the Dead” goes into a precision mode with coordinating individually wrapped death backstories and while Milliner attempts to get us to care about these characters, all is washed away and lost when death revokes all their previous, present, and future terminations. The backstories become null and void when not circled back to for the exception of John and his wife that find’s a sweet ironic malevolency making “A Wish for the Dead” satisfying in the end.
MVDVisual and Shami Media Group courteously releases Nathan Thomas Milliner’s “A Wish for the Dead” onto a not rated DVD home video. Presented in a stretched 16:9 aspect ration, the lossy video quality and the lack of color, mostly in a squashy greenish-yellow, chap into sore spots along the 80 minute runtime to the almost the point of SOV quality. Darks are plagued with digital noise that remove the sharp quality from the image, leaving the story to fend for itself and make up for the lack of presentation. The English 2.0 stereo sound mix pops during the higher pitches of dialogue and of some action points, but the dialogue is in the forefront and nicely balanced amongst depth and range considering. There are no bonus features on this release, but as an interesting note, Milliner illustrated much of Scream! Factory’s home video artwork (releases such as “Halloween II and III”) and for HorrorHound Magazine. The artist and filmmaker’s graphically detailed and perfectly suited talents grace the SMG cover as well. A wish granted for the major win with “A Wish for the Dead” as a macabre success story for independent filmmaking for aspiring artists despite the post-production engineering for a cleaner release, but death isn’t pretty, is it?