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The unexpected tragic death of Oliver’s mother, involving a pool, a television, and a garden gnome, places the now aged-out and deinstitutionalized Oliver into a difficult position. The sheltered, socially awkward young man, living by himself in his mother’s home and still makes like his mother is still with him, is given a last chance ultimatum from his supportive social worker and a pessimistic psychologist to make friends, to lead a normal life, and to sustain impendence or else he’ll have to return to being institutionalized as an adult. Local contemporaries single out Oliver for being weird, unusual, and a loner to the point that his childlike and naive mind turns him desperate enough for a friend to dig up corpses, those who used to be well-liked in the community, but when one morning the exhumed bodies come to life as a nuclear family that eats, breathes, and is sort of living. Though rotting from the outside, the undead family encourage and advise Oliver through his toughest life challenge yet – to be normal.
Described as a modern fairytale with zombies, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is a satirical comedy horror about the rite of passage into adulthood from the screenwriting team of John Landis’ “Burke & Hare” writer Piers Ashworth, producer of “Director’s Cut” Brad Wyman, and “Maximum Overdrive” star and “Rated X” director Emilio Estevez. Director Martin Owen (“L.A. Slasher”, “Let’s Be Evil”) helms the late 80’s deco piece with a Halloween backdrop, fitting for any undead family to suddenly animate into an eclectic and eccentric fashion that encircles what it means to understand family values in a very trendy niche specific of the late 80’s style. The feature is produced by Piers Ashworth, Ryan Hamilton (“Possessor”), Matt Williams (“Let’s Be Evil”), Pat Wintersgill (“Amulet”) and a conglomeration of executive producers including Emilio Estevez and is a production of the London, UK-based Lip Sync in association with Future Artists Entertainment and presented by Great Point Media and Well Go Entertainment.
Max Harwood gives a peculiar performance as a soft-spoken, sheltered-to-a-fault mother’s boy, Oliver, with a delusional depiction of reality. Though Harwood’s performance pairs well enough with Martin Owen’s rocky shore small town of equally asymmetrical corporeality, the titular Oliver comes off derivative of done before loners and Harwood provides little range to fully arc with the character’s transition from a naive young adult on the fringe of losing everything to the compendious hero of his own story by unearthing not only dead bodies that come to life but learning from their advice, truth, and experience to flesh out his own path of courage and confidence. A part of the LGBTQ community, Harwood is joined by fellow community comrade Tallulah Haddon in a strange turn of casting as Oliver’s love interest, Chloe. Queers play straight in the innate course of acting that, as of late, has often been called out for its hypocrisy of an actor portraying something their actually not. The “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” Haddon is an outsider to Oliver’s surroundings as isn’t influenced by those who have labeled Oliver weird or strange. Instead, Oliver and Chloe spark interest out of hate for being different, a relatable scenario for someone in the gay community. Oliver’s undead family is undoubtedly the best lot with a wide range of happy homemaker personalities and a decaying best friend that supports Oliver’s wings to fly from the next. Susan Wokoma is the stay-at-home mother with a knack for reading the room while her skin peels off and falls to the floor. Ben Miller is the red-blooded Frank that displays glimpses of being a renaissance man at times and Miller plays the beer drinking, jack-of-all-trades father figure aptly. “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’s” Hero Fiennes Tiffin comes on the scene cool and suave in a skin that’s literally drooping off his bones and his eyes have disintegrated from his sockets; Tiffin’s charming, lively, and a source of verbal wit that would be missing from the film. Lastly, Zenobia Williams rounds out the family as Mel, the little sister who is frankly underused and is quiet and subservient to being nice to her living older brother. “The Loneliest Boy in the World’s” cast rounds out with Jacob Sartorious, Hammed Animashaun, Alex Murphy, Sam Coleman, Mitchell Zhangazha, and “The Curse of Buckout Road’s” Evan Ross and “Alone at Night’s” Ashley Benson as the two sole American actors in a contending professionals betting on Oliver’s outcome in friend making.
The casting is interesting as a melting pot of nationalities and cultures intertwined into an alternate reality where the dead can be willed alive. Again, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is marketed as a modern fairytale and it’s comparable to the likes of if Andrew Currie’s 2006 “Fido,” where in a managed post-apocalyptic world the zombies are kept on as servants for the living in a 1950’s backdrop, was under the Peter Jackson landscape lens of hilltops, seasides, and graveyards. The obvious farce in the late 1980’s pattern aims to set the bar for a number of themes, including growing up into adulthood, to bring back traditional family values in order to push out and correct absent parent trauma, and to embrace the family as nurturing guidance. Oliver’s struggles are frugally displayed but that doesn’t mean the first act misses the mark on plotting the dots of his lonesomeness with being the target of bully teasing, the subject of an insensitive bet of established adults, and being in a position of having no living family or friends to slake his dependence. The one thing to note about Oliver’s sudden lifeline cut is that he doesn’t appear to bothered or frantic about the death of his mother or the prospect of being alone and possibly end up institutionalized. Instead, the unsocialized introvert falls into a semi-chimera state where he’s still tethered to his mother as he watches her favorite television shows and recalls their play-by-play during his graveside visits with mom. The whole concept of death is seemingly foreign to Oliver as he never calls the demise of his mother her death but rather an accident and he finds exhuming recently dead corpses to be his friends normal though he obviously knows it’s illegal and unacceptable normal behavior as he quickly hides or disguises the pre-animated bodies when visitors show up at his doorstep. There’s never an explanation why the dead come to life, but one thing is for sure is that the expired exhumed did a Frosty the Snowman just for the sake of Oliver’s desperation for companionship and, perhaps, that’s the entire reason why. The need for family was granted to the nice, dissociated boy in a lightning bolt of unexplainable supernatural serendipity to right all the bad things that are happening and will happen to him. Zombies are typically resurrected to take life and eat away at the living while Oliver’s zombies are atypical, restoring life and providing hope in an optimistic paradoxical universe.
Dark and quirky, “The Loneliness Boy in the World” is heartwarming with cold bodies. Well Go USA Entertainment releases the AVC Encoded, 1080p high-definition Blu-ray with a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The presentation is quite colorful with a vast palette of foundational primary colors sprinkled with retro-vision, such as tape camcorder view, that splits the difference in extracting the vivid pink-laden house interior as well as the spot colors on the characters with stark contrast against the lush greenery background or the rocky, wave crashing shoreline. Night sequences are often blue tinted but not overly saturating. I didn’t note any issues with compression as blacks are generally deep without splotchiness or banding. Details are mostly fine with intricacies more expressive on the decomposing bodies that give off great muscle, skin, and organ decay. The Blu-ray comes with a single audio option, an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Dialogue never has to outbattle the ambient tracks or The Invisible Men pop score. The ambient range really comes through the auxiliary channels well with the central element focusing on the dialogue. English subtitles are optional. Bonus features include a short behind-the-scenes with more fluff from the cast who seemingly can’t get enough of this project and the theatrical trailer is also included. The physical release comes in a standard Blu-ray snapper with an illustrated mesh artwork of essentially every character in the film, even the dead Dachshund. “The Loneliest Boy in the World” has a runtime of 90 minutes, is regionally hard coded A, and is rated R for language and violent content. Enjoyable yet explainable, “The Loneliest Boy in the World” is more defined by its cadaverous twist of fate than the theme it attempts to convey; nonetheless, the Martin Owen film has heart, soul, and the living dead.