3 DEAD GIRLS!(2007) is a compilation of three horror shorts that were written and directed by Christopher Alan Broadstone of Black Cab Productions between 1999 and 2004. Contrary to the title, the main theme of these films is not killing women. Although a "dead girl" is the reason for the action in all three shorts, Broadstone focuses on a metaphysical question or supernatural theme, exploring it through a cleverly-written story told through horror-themed action and dialogue. This trilogy of films, viewed in sequence, traces the maturation of Broadstone's filmmaking talents and abilities and the development of his collaboration with Simmons, who plays the lead role in each film, as well as with other frequent collaborators (such as producer Sebastian Alan).
SCREAM FOR ME(2000)
A very troubled young man, Garrott (Gabriel Sigal), seeks to learn the secrets of the afterlife through the experience of hearing women scream while he kills them. The answers he seeks have eluded him so far. After a frustrating session of choking Irene (Lora Cunningham), who refuses to (or cannot) scream for him, Garrott kills her. Immediately afterwards, Madman (Simmons) bursts into Irene's apartment. Garrott quickly finds himself playing the victim's role at the hands of Madman. A casual rapist, Madman vents his rage and lust on Garrott because he had wanted Irene for his own devices and desires. Even though Irene is dead, both the Madman and Garrott are going to get what they came to her room for.
Since I am based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, I have to like this joint simply because its story is set in Dallas (although it was shot in Los Angeles in Broadstone's modified bedroom, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere) and includes a negative comment about SMU! Seriously, though, this is intense footage that pulls no punches (literally) and does not hesitate to cross boundaries (hint: Simmons is naked [except for his shoes and reflective sunglasses] much of the time he is on screen).
Despite its intense material, SCREAM FOR ME is not without comic relief of a dark variety. The Madman is a sadistic psychopath, no doubt, but he is not without a sense of humor. His best lines are well-written, often clever, and expertly delivered by Simmons. There is very little dialogue between the two characters, but when they connect verbally (as well as physically), the resulting action is intensely explosive. It can also be campy at times, but this seems intentional and generally works well.
Since this film is the first Black Cab production to be released, it provides a baseline to measure subsequent efforts. It sets the bar fairly high in certain areas. For example, the set design and lighting are particularly good for a first film. One of the "extras" included on the DVD contains raw footage from the shoot for this film. This material demonstrates how good the post-production work was on this project. In particular, the editing (for example, the snapshot sequence at the end, over which Garrott delivers his final monologue), color, sound, and music stand out. Broadstone used original songs recorded by the band Ugly Mus-Tard.
On the down side, the film seems to be trying too hard to be edgy and over-the-top. The relative inexperience of cast and crew also makes its appearance at times. Nevertheless, it is a promising first horror short. In fact, it won Best Short Film at the 2003 New York City Horror Film Festival.
What happens to a person who cheats death? This short explores this question by personifying Death (Simmons), who has come to collect the soul of unfaithful wife Cindy (Lisa Montague), who has been murdered by her jealous husband George (Rick Wildridge; telephone conversation voiced by Cole Adam Buisson). Unfortunately for George, it is not yet Cindy's time to die. Death does not like it when someone disrupts his timetable. which is based on a ledger book that he carries with him. Death, therefore, takes his revenge on George — in a most diabolical fashion — for taking his "skin" (Cindy's death) from him.
MY SKIN! continues Broadstone's exploration of the theme of death. Here, it is clear at the beginning what happens when a person dies: Death comes to collect the deceased's soul. Death's methods are very organized, operating on a preordained timetable. The living are not supposed to interfere with Death's operations and should not be able to do so because of their predestined deaths. Paradoxically, George has managed to do just that, which leads to his equally paradoxical fate at the hands of Death.
This film shows clearly that the quality of Broadstone's horror filmmaking has taken a giant leap forward since SCREAM FOR ME. The short is has a more serious, artistic feel, lacking the frenetic action and intense dialogue of his first film, but retaining its sardonic edge and dark atmosphere. Post-production here is even slicker than in SCREAM FOR ME. Simmons demonstrates his versatility, as Death is a much different character than Madman. In a clear advance over his first collaboration with Broadstone, Simmons carries the entire film, as he is the only "living" character on screen. He is so convincing that it is very possible that a first-time viewer of 3 DEAD GIRLS! might miss that the actor who plays Madman is the same who portrays Death.
Broadstone uses clever symbolism in having Death transform into a bird when he travels from place to place. The birdlike mask that he wears to effect the transformation is itself symbolic of death, as it reminds the viewer of the headgear that those who cared for victims of the plague (i.e., the "Black Death") wore in medieval times. Similarly, having Death keep his records in a paper ledger is a low-tech touch that contrasts with the technology of the world of the living, showing just how ancient Death really is.
MY SKIN! is also an award-winning film. It took second place (Festival Prize) in the competition for Best Film – Horror Short at the 2003 Shriekfest.
HUMAN NO MORE(2004)
Nemo (Simmons) is a detective who decides to become a mercenary for the highest bidder after the death of his wife and son at the hands of a nihilistic murderer. Unable to decide between Heaven, Hell, and the world of the living, he opts to give up his humanity to the Devil in a most brutal and graphic manner.
This is my favorite of the three shorts in this compilation DVD. Once again, Simmons inhabits his role so well that it is easy to miss that it is him. Broadstone shoots him from the perspective of the Devil, who hides on the margins of Nemo's office, adding a layer of supernatural evil to the noir crime-film atmosphere of the visuals. The lighting and sound enhance this winning combination. In an added bonus, some of the film's music is by Broadstone's band, The Judas Engine. One track in particular, "Soul in a Hole," is so catchy that I had trouble getting it out of my head after watching the short.
Christopher Alan Broadstone
Christopher Alan Broadstone, writer-director of 3 DEAD GIRLS! — image source: Black Cab Productions
Christopher Alan Broadstone is a multitalented filmmaker whose work matured quickly over just five years. Since making the three shorts on this DVD, he has concentrated on post-production services, including sound and film editing. He is also an accomplished musician and author. HIs first novel, Puzzleman, came out in 2004 and was reissued in 2010. His new collection of horror stories, SUICIDE THE HARD WAY: And Other Tales From The Innerzone, will drop on April 10, 2015. It is now available on Amazon for Kindle preorder.