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‘Murder Party’ falls apart early

On paper, Insurgo’s “Murder Party” — adapted and directed by John Beane from Jeremy Saulnier’s 2007 low-budget satire horror film — sounds promising.

On Halloween, Chris, a young, geek-ish Brooklynite (Shane Cullum) finds an invitation to a murder party. He dresses up in his best cardboard knight outfit and brings pumpkin bread as a thank you present. He interrupts a warehouse of art misfits — among them, a Goth photographer (Tommy Watanabe), and a seductress dressed (overdressed) as the Pris character from “Blade Runner” (Denda Brink) — who are astounded that their victim has chosen to come. (“I don’t think any of us thought someone would actually be stupid enough to show up,” one of the conspirators remarks). But — after one character dies from an allergic reaction to the pumpkin bread — the clan proceeds to try to do in their visitor.

It proves a tough task. It involves fists, guns, chainsaws and whatever else the wannabe murderers can get their hands on. When we meet Godfather-like Alexander (Erik Amblad), we learn the hoodlums are just trying to impress their guru so that they can earn some of the grant money he claims to be distributing.

Cullum as the unsuspecting Chris brings a lot of humanity to his role. He gets us in the mood for a scary tale about an Everyman conquering the odds. But once we enter the warehouse, the production falls apart. It makes “The Rocky Horror Show” look like realistic theater.

Beane’s direction is sloppy and fails to capture the delicate tone necessary for this tongue-in-cheek humor. I could see Beane making this work on a bigger stage (he’s using the former Off-Broadway Theatre that has been cut down to Black-Box size), with spooky lights, scenery and props working with the story to give us a strong “Boo!” But this one-hour “mini-attempt” is lame. It feels as if Beane is just filling in time before his first “real” production.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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