Death Lay Here

Few things in life are as certain as the fact that everything has an end, and that death is an inevitable reality for every living being. It might be hard to accept that something or someone is going to be gone forever, but in the end, it must be done. ‘Death Lay Here’, written and directed by Richard Schertzer, delves deep into the subject of death, and what lays beyond.

 

One day, Charlie stops by a pub in order to have a drink before heading home and sits at a table by himself. A while later, a stranger joins him at the table and also orders a drink. The two of them chat for a while – then, the stranger gets up and leaves. It is only slightly later that Charlie notices that the stranger had forgotten a small wooden box on the table – he doesn’t know what to do, but ultimately takes the box and hands the waiter his home address, in case the man comes back looking for his lost possession.

 

As much as Charlie wants to contain his curiosity, it isn’t long before he convinces himself that it cannot do much harm to take a peek inside the mysterious box. Upon opening it, he finds nothing inside. Disappointed, and a little bit confused, Charlie goes about his day until weird things start happening – he slowly loses grasp on reality and is chased around by three monsters that resemble possessed zombies. As he tries to make sense of the situation, he becomes more and more inclined to believe that his predicament is somehow related to the box, which might hold some supernatural meaning.

 

‘Death Lay Here’ is a film that continuously throws surprise after surprise at the audience, gradually showing its cards and letting things click by themselves. The film thus becomes a journey of discovery, revealing uncomfortable truths about Charlie’s situation to him as much as to the audience – even though we do not directly see through the young man’s eyes, we share his confusion and mirror his fear. It never becomes a full-fledged horror, but it never intends to – it more than manages to evoke questions in the audience’s mind, which gradually turn into more questions as more details about Charlie’s past start to arise. Although it starts slow, ‘Death Lay Here’ picks up the pace halfway through, and keeps its foot on the gas until the credits roll – it’s an enthralling ride which will likely keep you on the edge of your seats.

 

Richard Schertzer’s short film is certainly an entertaining one, but it also has its share of problems. First of all, the score sometimes overstays its welcome, and actually intrudes rather than complementing the on-screen action – there’s nothing wrong with keeping some scenes completely quiet.  Second, a bit more coherence would be welcome in terms of why certain things happen and how they can be explained by the elements we learn of subsequently – if we take ‘Death Lay Here’ backwards, somewhat like ‘Memento’, certain flaws in conceptualization can be easily exposed. Even so, the film remains a quite enjoyable experience, and considering its status as a student project, shows plenty of promise for Richard Schertzer, his cast and crew.

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© 2019 by Filmstrip International Film Festival