There is a real and very distinguished history of horror-comedy hybrids. From Bruce Campbell’s antics in The Evil Dead series, to Peter Jackson’s Braindead, even over here in Blighty in Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, it seems that few genre-blends work better than frights and fun. This week I was introduced to a film in a similar vein, Adam R Steigert’s A Grim Becoming. This one DOESN’T have ‘dead’ in the title… but it has have Death as one of the main characters!
Intrigued? Well, read on...
A GRIM BECOMING (2014)
Dir: Adam R Steigert
Starring: Brandyn T Williams, Michael Sciabarrasi, Melyssa Jade, Devanny Pinn, Britt Griffith, Bill Oberst Jr, Melantha Blackthorne, Lynn Lowry, Jessica Cameron, Aryn Fitzgerald
SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.
After tragedy befalls his family, ambitious and short-tempered architect Raphael (Williams) returns to his small hometown of Metzburgh for a funeral. Raphael is on the brink of losing a multi-million dollar deal and petty rival Wayne (Griffith) is snapping at his heels.
Upon reaching the town Raphael find himself in the middle of a supernatural occurrence as he witnesses a Grim Reaper about to harvest a soul. Upon interfering to save the hapless victim, Raphael finds himself face to face with the sinister Magoo (Sciabarrasi). Magoo reveals that he is actually the embodiment of death itself and that due to ancient and unbreakable rules, now Raphael must take up the mantle of Grim Reaper.
Loathe to accept the responsibility of the role, Raphael finds himself trying to juggle his grief, battles with rival Reapers, occasionally sloughing his flesh to become a walking skeleton, his bizarre yet loveable family (including Hickey’s House of Horrors fave Bill Oberst Jr) and the Machiavellian machinations of the odious Wayne. Luckily he has his cute and loyal assistant Carrie (Jade) on hand to help him cope… but for how long?
BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): A comedy film will ALWAYS get by on how loveable its leads are — and Brandyn T Williams is a fine leading man. He has great comic timing and really caught the nuances of his role. Opposite him, Melyssa Jade is undoubtedly a very pretty woman, but she was tough and likeable enough for you to really root for her. I can’t wait to see these two again!
The supporting cast were a mixed bag, some a little less accomplished than others, but with appearances from genre heavyweights Bill Oberst Jr and Lynn Lowry there can be no complaints! Following on from his terrifying work in Billy Pon’s Circus of the Dead, Oberst shows that he has a real affinity for comedy too — Mr Oberst, you are making a fan here at Hickey’s House of Horrors!
Few people will be scared by A Grim Becoming, but there are actually a couple of nice gore moments in there, including one fantastic one involving SPOILERS TO FOLLOW — Raph’s zombified niece — SPOILERS OVER.
The wacky supporting characters really are a highpoint, from a randy geriatric couple to a stoner fallen angel, but the surprise highlight of the film to me was Sciabarrasi’s Death/Magoo. I’d never seen him before I watched this film, but consider me a fan now. He seemed to be having fantastic fun with the part, neatly veering between very, very fun and darkly menacing with ease, he stole every scene he was in.
Finally, the writing in this film really does warrant some praise. There was lots of very punchy, very funny dialogue, including a piece of hilarious miscommunication involving Elvis that had me in stitches. The first rule of a comedy is surely: ‘Be FUNNY’. Steigert and crew get it and we, the audience, are the ones to benefit.
WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I said above, while most of the cast were very, very good, there were a few wobbles here and there. Nothing that derailed the film by any stretch, but a couple of performances jarred.
Also the film is a low-budget effort. If you go in expecting a highly-polished, multi-million pound big studio effort, you will be disappointed. This is film that was very well made with the resources to hand, but limited resources can only go so far.
A case in point, while in some scenes the hokey skeleton effects are very funny, in others they didn’t quite hit the spot. Luckily the performances and writing carry you along, even when the budget cannot quite match the film’s ambition.
Finally, while the schizophrenic nature of the film often worked in its favour, bouncing from funny to gory in the blink of an eye, at times the tonal shift fell a little flat — mainly when the film flipped from riotously funny to soppily sentimental. Let’s just say the film worked far better at making me laugh!
VERDICT: Following in the comedy-horror footsteps of the greats, A Grim Becoming is a great Friday night beer film. Get the pale ales, get the pizzas, get some friends over and sit back and get ready to laugh.
It is very funny and succeeds on so many levels. Great performances, hilarious writing and an indie edge make this a perfect cross between the likes of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners or 1999’s Idle Hands and Kevin Smith’s early work. As a huge Clerks fan I mean this in the very best of ways. Steigert almost certainly has a cult hit on his hands and I recommend checking it out as soon as you get the chance. I’m now eagerly anticipating the UK release of his sci-fi flick, Not Human next month. Oh yes, there will be a review!
As seems to be par for the course with my reviews, we are still waiting on confirmation of a UK release for A Grim Becoming but as soon as I hear anything from the fantastically friendly and talented Mr Steigert, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, get yourself to the film's official facebook page, to check for updates and while you’re there, why not show a little support and get Liking.
If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.