DVD Review - Let Me Die Quietly
Writer-actor Charles Casillo plays Mario, a psychic and sex addict who gets pulled into a murder mystery after he's plagued with crazy dreams and visions of various killings. Mario meets a strange woman named Gabrielle who also claims to be psychic. Things get dangerous when Mario falls in love with her.
Mario does struggle with his sexuality, and when it comes to independent horror films or thrillers with gay characters or gay themes, some notable titles include Cruising (1980) with Al Pacino, the slasher flicks Final Stab (2001) and Hellbent (2004), as well as David Cronenberg-like, psychological terrors like In the Blood (2006) and Pornography: A Thriller (2009).
Director Mitchell Reichler borrows from Rod Serling's Twilight Zone for the first half and Alfred Hitchcock or any of the classic Hollywod film noir titles like Double Indemnity (1944) or The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) for the second half. This movie is very much a film noir with a slight supernatural and gay edge to it, working under a New York indie aesthetic.
Reichler though enjoys lingering on Casillo's face. The majority of this movie at least initially is built on close-ups of Casillo. You can't help but become intimately knowledgable of Casillo's round, Italian head, his sleepy eyes, short unshaven beard, and when outside his ivy dress cap, and Casillo plays Mario almost as if he were an adult version of Sal Mineo's character in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) yet with psychic abilities.
Though it may not be on the level of the Oscar-winning film Inception, what impressed me the most about this movie is its sound mixing. The opening ten minutes has superb editing in that regard. It's simple, but it starts with voice-over from Casillo. His character Mario stands outside a porn theater in Hell's Kitchen. In an instant, he's inside a church's confession booth. In the next instant, he's sitting in his therapist's office. The sound mixing goes from that voice-over to dialogue with the priest in the church and then the therapist in his office. The audio the whole time is seamless, flowing from one scene into another and back again like we're almost hearing Mario's stream-of-consciousness.
From this sound mixing to Reichler's love of close-ups, we're meant to be in Mario's head, to know what he knows or feel what he feels. What we get is that Mario is a very lonely and depressed guy. All that of course changes when an apparent chance encounter with a woman in an elevator provides him with someone to whom he can relate, who's like him.
Her name is Gabrielle or Gaby. She's played by Dana Perry. She's a long, dark-haired, wide-eyed, aspiring photographer and former model who loves wearing berets when we first meet her. She claims to be psychic too. At first, she helps Mario with his investigation into the murders, but her behavior is questionable. Her behavior in fact makes everything questionable.
Yes, things are creepy, but the so-called murders and Mario's so-called investigation become so vague and confusing as to undermine the horror aspects. Except for flashes, there is no sense of danger here or substantial connection to the victims. Mario has a lackluster interest in the first half of the movie, but it's not enough to sell me on any urgency in what turns out to be a life-and-death situation. I understand that this is supposed to be a mystery, but the slow pacing in the beginning made me ask if I should even care about anything that was happening.
There is a turning point that like any good film noir drew me into the story and made me care about the characters a lot more. The turning point is when what's happening is actually explained. Once that turning point hits, I then became invested in the movie. The problem was that I fear the turning point may have come a little too late.
I understand that the turning point has to be properly setup, but I wonder if the movie would have worked better if we'd been turned sooner. The turn doesn't happen until half-way through the movie, nearly at the two-thirds mark, and I simply felt that two-thirds may be too long a time to keep this creepy, psychic mystery in limbo. Also, while I liked the turn, it was perhaps a little too verbose and expository in its delivery.
The writing in general is verbose and expository. Yet, when it comes to the character of Mario, a lot of his dialogue or monologues are also beautifully poetic. Despite any problems this film has, I must admit that I did enjoy Casillo's performance of those words. There is a subtlety, a sincerity and at times a poetry to Casillo himself when he's doing so that is quite attractive.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.
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