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Dead on Arrival

Dead on Arrival poster
Emmy nominated Billy Flynn stars in an ensemble cast as Sam Collins, a pharmaceutical sales rep who visits a small town in Louisiana to close the business deal of a lifetime. He finds himself in a dark world of sex, corruption and murder as he is poisoned with no antidote to save his life. Desperate for answers, with less than 24 hours to live, Sam turns to a local girl Jesse. Their path leads to a voodoo priestess who only confirms Sam's doomed fate. On the run, caught in a deadly vertigo with no one to trust, Sam and Jesse find themselves running from police detectives, the Mob and a dirty sheriff who wants him dead.

Inspired by the 1950 classic noir thriller D.O.A. I TrailerTwitter I Facebook I Festival bookings


DOA Reviewed: haunting story, the film gives a bitter sweet comment on the ironies of a world so vibrant and yet so ailing

Director/writer Stephen C. Sepher's film 'Dead on Arrival' (2017) is an augural noir thriller about corruption and intrigue in small town America, where dirty cops, sketchy dealers and the mob have created a world murkier than the Louisiana Bayou. A haunting story, the film gives a bitter sweet comment on the ironies of a world so vibrant and yet so ailing.

Producers Kim Barnard, Rory Fradella and Stephen C Sepher have made a riveting thriller set in one of America's last real cities, New Orleans, using the mysterious and intriguing environment of the city and its surroundings as an essential character to the story. The city, like the world we are introduced to, is as secretive and strange, and the two mirror each other. The cinematography, shot by expert DOP John Garrett, is stunning and suggestive, further enriching the mood and story. The film has an ensemble cast with such great chemistry, they come off like a symphony of dark and light feeding each other and balancing each other out.

Actor Billy Flynn (Hawaii Five-O, Days of Our Lives) gives a compelling performance as a naive vaccine pharmacist on the run for simply knowing too much. Sam is being pursued by multiple parties but not to kill him; rather, to make sure he's already dead. The film opens with a gripping scene with Sam driving a car and making a phone call. But he suddenly nearly crashes onto the side of the road when he suffers an attack on his stomach. A passing police car notices Sam struggling on the side of the road and stops to help.

When Sam is brought to the hospital he learns from Dr Kazan (Matthew Pohlkamp) that his stomach pains and precipitous illness have been caused by a rare poison he has ingested and has only 24 hour hours to live. Sam realizes that someone has murdered him, but who? And is there a vaccine? The paradox here of the vaccine pharmacist being inflicted with a presumably incurable disease and no known vaccine is a metaphorical theme that is consistent throughout the film, which cleverly depicts parallel story lines with like ironies; a comment on a dark sullied world that will have to get dirtier before things can ever be cleaned.

One of the highlights in the film is a luxurious New Years Eve gala promising a cornucopia of earthly pleasures, which later turns into one of the darkest moments in the story, this being the time when all the demons are released and the poison is served; whether that be alcohol, irresistible siren women, infectious mosquito bites or a deadly vaccine. The party is a veritable bacchanal- bottomless Champagne, beautiful women, a top local jazz band, Cuban cigars, poker tables as well as a carnival of other attendees including the mob, a corrupt cop, timely server Thomas (Travis Farris), a shady pervert named Chris Mulkey (Hans Dunkle) and a stunning party planner femme-fatale Bonnie (Scottie Thompson).

The party is hosted by shady Dr. Alexander (Billy Slaughter) in his “summer home” Nola mansion. Slaughter's performance as the an errant double dealing doctor feels so genuine and slimy he leaves you squirming in your seat. Doctor Alexander has invited Sam to his party for a reason- to help him get his crooked pharmaceutical venture off the ground; he plans to to make a vaccine (a $24 Billion business) for the Zica virus and capitalize on it before the FDA, with pharmaceutical Sam's help. During the gala, Dr. Alexander calls Sam into his office to discuss the deal. Naive Sam falls into the trap, with no idea of the illegal dealings of the venture and fancies he's just made himself a wealthy and high society new friend.

Doctor Alexander warns Sam that nothing he sees happen in his home during the party can ever be spoken of outside. Sam assures him all is well then goes to enjoy the revelries. He gets so caught up in the flowing Champagne and the beautiful women that for the moment, life couldn't taste better. While Sam loses himself in the arms of his New Years Eve hook up Jesse (Christa B. Allen), his jewel of the evening, party planner Bonnie and her questionable friendship with Chris Mulkey is revealed. We are led to believe that while Bonnie is a favorite of Dr. Alexander's harem of women, Chris and Bonnie have a past that binds them.

Scottie Thompson's performance of Bonnie is exceptional as usual, delivering nothing short of brilliance, leaving the viewer hungry for more. Of all the women at the party, Bonnie steals the scene in every shot. Her presence commands attention and brings the banal festivities to a higher more hallowed level. She is the symbol of all that is beautiful and sacred in the dark world that surrounds her. As all the parasites and plotters who make a swamp of the world they live in, Bonnie is the one force who brings light to each scene, beauty and hope to an otherwise dismal reality.

Outside of the gala, house server Thomas welcomes mercenary Deputy Walker (Tyson Sullivan) who is on duty. The two hold a familiar conversation, suggesting that Sullivan and Thomas' boss Dr. Alexander are good friend, and both of them up to no good. Sullivan's performance as beautiful criminal is so commanding you find yourself wanting more; after all, what is a great hero without a great villain? Even Bonnie has a thing for Deputy Walker. She calls him and he answers, “Hey Beautiful.” We are left wondering if they have a past too; and if so, who is Bonnie really? Is she just a party planner or does she play a bigger role behind the scenes, more than just making everything look so good? Bonnie tells Deputy Walker, freaking out, “I never signed up for this.” So what did she sign up for? Is she a true femme fatale at the midpoint of the darkness, on the road to evil only good intentions perhaps? We are left to wonder.

The story and town are a great mystery to its characters and to the world beyond. But there's a clean up around town, a draining of the swamp if you will, while Sam wanders the town like a ghost out for answers to the great unsolved enigma, and a cure. In the bigger picture, after all has passed, we are posed with the question of whether or not the dirty and evil ways of the corrupt and greedy world will somehow someday be corrected and cleaned.

Vanessa McMahon

Writer, published  Author, scriptwriter and producer

Accredited in Cannes; Facebook, twitter