If you’ve stopped by the site previously then you’ve probably seen my review coverage for the comic book DayBlack by Keef Cross. Well this is in fact a review for the short film based on that comic. The film is written by Cross which is apparent in its structure and tone, but directed by Justin Jordan. Hold on comic fans this isn’t the Justin Jordan that’s given us titles like Spread and the Luthor Strode series, but rather an independent filmmaker with the same name. Hold on comic fans this isn’t the Justin Jordan that’s given us titles like Spread and the Luthor Strode series, but rather an independent filmmaker with the same name. The film follows the comic book for the most part, but adds in a bevy of new characters and spices things up by adding an assistant For Merce in a supporting role. Much like in the comic Merce narrates the story and walks us through the world of being a vampire. There is a rather large twist to the story that the comic doesn’t have. I think that the comic will eventually get to this point, but for now the film has beaten it to the punch. There are more slight deviations, but it works and keeps the comic book on its own path.
The acting is decent. There are definitely some characters that stand out more than others. In the lead is Eugene Russell IV as Merce and he delivers a decent performance. His narration and on screen presence is great, but his on screen acting is a little stiff at times. His assistant Miya played by Sharisa Whatley, has an overall strong presence, but her delivery fluctuates between natural sounding and obvious acting. Neal Ghant’s character is a scene stealer. He comes across natural and dynamic with his delivery and even though some of his written dialogue was awkward he still managed to make it impactful. He was honestly at an entirely different level than the rest of the cast.
Unfortunately the secondary characters are pretty pointless and do little to move the story and most can’t deliver a believable line. There were at least two scenes that involved secondary characters that could be removed all together and the film would be better off.
There a few things that stood out to me while watching the film, the setting for the tattoo parlor changes a lot. It ends up looking like three, maybe even four locations were used and it’s honestly distracting because for the first moment of each of these scenes you’re left wondering where you’re supposed to be within the world.
The other thing was wardrobe and practical effects. Part of the story takes place during the time of slavery and as such two of the characters were there during that time. We end up seeing them in modern looking clothing; while it’s an independent short and doesn’t have all the money in the world, there needed to be more attention to detail for these scenes so that things like shoes with laces and overalls with brand names showing weren’t as noticeable. Really a stronger commitment from the actors to go barefoot would have been more convincing. In the modern era the wardrobe is much better and actually makes the world standout.
On the practical effects side when Merce is burying a body it’s pretty clear that he’s just throwing dirt on the woman while she lays stiff as a board. Honestly just a small hole and a different angle could have sold this scene better. It’s not that any of this is a deal breaker, but it does show the inexperience of the filmmaker, but again it’s an independent short film so that’s okay.
Overall I still enjoyed the film. I think parts could be taken out or tightened up to produce a better overall product, but for the most part I still enjoyed it. What saves the film is the same thing that makes the comic book interesting: this is the most original take on the vampire genre that I have read in years.
Director: Justin Jordan Writer: Keef Cross Run Time: 18:30