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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


Noir shines through in Dead on Arrival by Stephen C. Sepher

Dead On Arrival updates the classic 1950 film noir thriller DOA with a cast of misfits and a Deep South twist. Sam Collins (Billy Flynn in his feature film debut) is a pharmaceutical sales rep sent to Louisiana to close the deal of a lifetime. After a lavish New Year’s Eve party, Sam finds out he's been poisoned. In the desperately brief window the fast acting toxin gives him, he must solve his own murder amidst an ensemble cast of colorful characters, few of whom have his best interests at heart. Sam's mad dash to find out who poisoned him and why keeps the film humming along at a breakneck pace. Writer-director Stephen C. Sepher (Heist) has made a slick, contemporary neo-noir that is a fine tribute to Rudolph Maté's classic.


Not long after arriving in Louisiana, Sam ends up wading into the swamp of the bayou's dark corners - a den of thieves and not-so-hidden vices that's very murky indeed. The morning after an escapade-filled houseboat party thrown by his firm's mysterious client, known only as The Doctor, Sam's fate is sealed. Hospital staff give him 24 hours to live. True to film noir form, there's no antidote and our man’s as good as gone. For Sam, all that's left to do is run – from his hospital bed and the law. The question is, can he untangle the sprawling conspiracy of sex, murder and voodoo in time, even as the poison eats away at his insides?


Staggering down country roads, Sam tracks down his one night stand Jessie (Christa B Allen) at a go-go bar, and the two head off into the mangrove forests to get a medically prudent second opinion from the local witch doctor. Police detectives and a sleazeball sheriff are crisscrossing the county, the local mob boss is out of a few million thanks to Sam’s client, and before they know it, people start turning up dead. The clock is ticking for our rapidly-sickening protagonist, and things are certain not to let up.


DOA brings together an ensemble cast of talented character actors, who turn in distinctive performances with just a pinch of the absurd. Veteran character actor Chris Mulkey stands out as Hans Dunkle, a swinging insurance agent with many sexual fetishes and some even more dubious business practices. Lillo Brancato (The Sopranos) and Anthony Sinopoli play two bumbling bagmen out to make good on their boss's bad investment, if they can go for long enough without tripping over their own feet. The two will get laughs from audiences.


Sepher's appreciation for the noir genre shines through, and he immerses us in the swamps. Shot on location on Louisiana, the film is full of spectacular set pieces, including a memorable junkyard foot chase Anyone out on the water at night is set against a backdrop of gently swaying reeds that anyone could easily disappear into – or emerge from.


Fans of the 1950 film will find much to appreciate. Unlike the 1988 adaptation with Dennis Quaid and and Meg Ryan, this version is only “inspired by” the original.  Sepher has given himself a free hand to create his own original ensemble cast and speed along the original's often laborious plotting. In his role as Sam, Flynn puts his own spin on the bewildered and desperate everyman originally played by Edmond O'Brien, and Christa B Allen’s Jessie is an enticing femme fatale. O’Brien’s daughter Maria O'Brien has a brief cameo as a neighbor.


As the film progresses, Sepher's creativity with casting and use of the colourful setting that shines through. The swamps seem ready to eat our protagonists alive. As they run, Sam and Jessie fall deep into a world where larger-than life thugs and sadists reign.

Darkness around the corner, doomed protagonists and eccentric characters are what make a good film noir. On this count, Dead On Arrival more than delivers.


Reviewed by  Tom Llewellin

REVIEW: Dead On Arrival (96 mins)

Director/Writer: Stephen C.  Sepher

Production company: Kingfisher Media

Starring: Billy Flynn, Christa B Allen, DB Sweeney, Chris Mulkey