The Wilsons’ are the perfect portrait of a nice family; they’re wealthy but charitable and kind without exploiting the humility of others. However, when Dylan and Gina Wilson bid and win on the SinSational art collection at auction and hang the enchanted paintings strewn through their mansion estate, a strange succumbing to sin overwhelms their moral fiber. The paintings of Dorian Wilde, an eccentric and obsessive 1890’s painter who achieved eternal soul longevity by making a pact with the devil, created the art, depicting primal animals symbolic of the seven deadly sins, by using canvas and paint out of flesh and blood of his victims. The Wilsons’ become corrupted and carry out the sins of Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, Envy, and Wrath and the only way to save the family from damnation lies in the hands of a former priest, Father Mendale, and a girlfriend, Kim, of the oldest Wilson boy engulfed by Wrath.
“Art of the Dead” is what people call when art comes to life, or in this case, death. From the selective “Emmanuelle” film series and “There’s Nothing Out There” writer-director, Rolfe Kanefsky comes a story woven with the seven deadly sins theme as a foundation that approximates a 90’s grade thriller of epically gory proportions. With a catchy, yet dead horse beaten “of the Dead” title, “Art of the Dead” uses the seven deadly sin theme and blends it with an obvious homage to the gothic literary novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde. The main antagonist, Dorian Wilde, is the merging of the author and his fictional creation. Oscar Wilde wrote the novel in 1891, the same era the story enlightens in which Dorian Wilde makes a pact with the devil. Unlike another notable film, “Se7en,” where a practical killer exploits the capital vices to thwart a pair of detectives, “Art of the Dead” introduces dark, supernatural forces of Oscar Wilde’s work into the fold that are not only abject in what makes us human, but also biblically condemning, spearheaded by a satanic maniac who will do everything and anything to maintain his precious work and eternal soul, Produced by Michael and Sonny Mahal of Mahal Empire productions, the financial investors have also backed a previous Kanefsky film, another occult gone astray thriller entitled “Party Bus to Hell,” and in association with Nicholas George Productions and Slaughtercore Presentations.
Another pair of producers are also a couple of headlining actors who are household names – “Sharknado’s” Tara Reid and “21 Jump Street” actor and avid painter, Richard Grieco. Reid plays a snooty and shallow art gallery curator who sells willingly the Dorian Wilde set knowing well enough of their malignant history, but Grieco has a personal connection toward a film regarding art more so than the dolled up Reid because of his nearly 20 year passion as an painter of Abstract Emotionalism. His character, Douglas Winter, is obsessed with the SinSational collection to the point where it uses him as an instrument to kill his artistically unappreciative family; a sensation washed over as parallel and broad among all artists alike fore sure. Jessica Morris (“Evil Bong 666”) and Lukas Hassel (“The Black Room”) also headline. Morris provides the sultry and lustful-influenced mother, Gina, and her golden hair and blue eyes has a fitting innocence that’s is tainted and provocatively shields the cruel intentions of lust and power while Hassel, a giant of a man, immediately becomes capitulated to greeds’ warty influence. Each actor renders a version of their paintings and each dons the sinful presence gorgeously with individual personalties and traits; those other actors include Cynthia Aileen Strahan (“Dead End”), Sheila Krause, Jonah Gilkerson, and Zachary Chyz as well as “The Black Room’s” Alex Rinehart and Robert Donovan along with Danny Tesla playing the demonic proxy of Dorian Wilde.
“Art of the Dead” embodies an innovated spin on a classic tale of self-absorption and deferring one’s own detrimental sins upon others to carry the burden. Kanefsky grasps the concept well and visually sustains a contextualized 98 minute feature that carries a straightforward connection to the Gothicism of Oscar Wilde while cascading a family tree (pun intended) of problems that pinpoint each sin’s affecting destruction upon the soul through a wide burst of dispersive poison. While the idea is sound enough, the script and narrative channelling hardly carries the equivalent weight of the idea and comes off clunky, cheap, and sometimes uncharismatic. “The Black Room” was the last Kanefsky film critiqued at ItsBlogginEvil.com and the script was noted with the characters that hardly progress up toward and out of the despondent and deviant muck and it was the filmmaker’s softcore cinema background that attributed to the characters over-saturated girth of lust, which elevated and hindered “The Black Room’s” incubus storyline. With “Art of the Dead,” Kanefsky redresses the lust to quench just the respective sin with the right amount of perversion, represented by the mythical, sex driven Satyr that was created beyond being a nice touch of storytelling, disturbance, and meta kinkiness. Kanefsky continues to proportionally feed each sin the same manner with the exception of Pride that lures in a specific victim; however, the paintings’ insidious nature wonders to a circumstantial level at best with Kanefsky’s tongue-and-cheek dialogue and uncouth playfulness of Dorian Wilde while possessing the flesh of a black-laced, Fredrick’s of Hollywood-cladded Gina.
Umbrella Entertainment and ITN distribution release “Art of the Dead” onto a region 4 DVD home video and is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The sterile and polished look of the image renders doesn’t invite stimuli to visual senses, but is superbly clean and free of blotchiness that can routinely be a contrast issues with darker, indie productions; however, the digital source is nicely maintained and the darker scenes and colorfully deep portions of the paintings, the viscous blood, the modernized Wilson house, and the anywhere else have quality caliber. Visual and practical effects are necessarily key for “Art of the Dead” to be successful and the film scores a combination of talent to enhance the ho-hum photography with renaissance man Clint Carney, whose visual effects work on his own written and starred in film “Dry Blood” was flawless and who also painted Dorian Wilde’s works of art, and some solid practical and Satyr creature effects work by “Child Play’s 3” Victor Guastini and the VGP Effects team. The English language Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio is clear, precise, and no inkling of issues with the range and depth of ambient sound. Like most standard DVD releases from Umbrella Entertainment, this release comes with no bonus material or even a static menu. To observe his work as a whole, filmmaker Rolfe Kanefsky has nothing to prove with a body of work spanning over nearly three decades, but in reducing “Art of the Dead as a singular film, there in lies a double edged sword. A true sin is to headline a film with actors with brief roles just to draw in investors and an audience, yet “Art of the Dead” also finds innovated modernism out of classical creativity, giving new life by homage, and displaying some maximum carnage fun with plenty oil and water color.