Immortal (2019)

“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality.”
— Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States

As we’ve said — many times — in our reviews of new films in the streaming realms: casting is what makes us hit the big red streaming button. And Immortal, from the competent co-writing and directing teams of Tom Colley and Jon Dabach, and Danny Isaacs and Rob Marqolies, is no exception.

Regardless of how big or small the part of the superfluous-or-pivotal Eric Roberts-kind (the recently reviewed The Evil Inside Her), all we need to know is that we’re getting a dose of the actors we care about: Tony Todd (of Candyman fame), the great Dylan Baker (excellent in the recently reviewed Nightfire), and Mario Van Peebles (nailing it in the recently reviewed A Clear Shot). That acting trio-de jour is in support of a cast that features a grown up Neal Schweiber from Freaks and Geeks (Samm Levine, a solid actor in Eric Roberts-mode with an already 120-credit strong resume) and Vanessa Lengies (Sugar Motta from TV’s Glee), along with Agnes Bruckner (effectively transformed herself into Kris Kardashian in The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson) and she’s-everywhere actress Robin Bartlett (gal-pal Debbie Buchman on TV’s Mad About You, along with effective support roles in Shutter Island and Lean on Me).

Immortal gets right into the what-the-hell-where-is-this-going story in fewer than 15 minutes: We have a quote about man’s immortality by Abraham Lincoln. We have slutty school girls heading to class in strappy-spiked heels (only happens in “movie” high schools, natch), creepy-lech track coaches, dorky, kindly-lech teachers clad in short-sleeve plaid shirts, and a blonde track star’s kidnapping-by-poisoned dart.

So what in the hell does a zip-tied girl with a sack over her head have to do with the 16th president of the United States? Oh, no. . . . Not another undisclosed killer via camouflage and combat boots. . . .

“Jinkies!” Shaggy! It’s the kindly, self-professed “normal old guy” Dylan Baker citing Lord of the Flies as his reasoning for kidnapping high school girls. And what’s ol’ Mr. Shagis’s kink: he likes to hunt people in the cellphone-dead, deep neck of the booby-trapped woods that he refers to as “The Labyrinth.”

Okay, so what’s all this have to do with President Lincoln and immortality? Turns out the tweaked literary and history buff Mr. Shagis has discovered the secrets of immortality—so we think. And instead of sharing his secret with the world, lo’ Shags has decided to shed all of his inhibitions and indulge in his dark desires. . . .

And what we think is going to be another low-budget retread of The Hunt (aka American Hunt) with Dylan Baker’s character kidnapping and hunting people as a deranged savior of the wayward, well, you’d be wrong (although, you can’t get enough Dylan Baker, so we’d stream that film). What we have here is a modernized, anthology throwback to the twisty Amicus films of old as unscrupulous people face brutal deaths—and are revived as a form of punishment from an unseen-beyond force. This is a world where the one you think is evil, is not . . . and the “pure in heart,” is evil.

Kudos to teams Colley-Dabach and Isaacs-Marqolies scoring their named-cast of actors; for if this low-budgeter had gone with an unknown cast-for-cost, we would have ended up with just another run-of-the-mill horror-streamer with a cast of dedicated-but-strained performances buoyed by Roberts-styled walk-on-the-box credits to inspire us stream the movie. However, the cast-mix of solid commodities, character actor undercards, and unknowns is effective—with Baker and Todd owning (but, of course) their ulterior-motive driven characters.

The only caveat is that regardless of Tony Todd’s voice-over driving the trailer, he is not a Candyman-styled protagonist in a wraparound story jelling the tales as he deals out the supernatural comeuppance Peter Cushing-style. But that’s a good thing, because that’s what we were expecting. And in today’s world of so many accessible movies—especially in a COVID lockdown—we need the unexpected in our movies to keep our minds sharp.

All in all, Immortal is a smart, insightful (drama, not horror) script by Jon Dabach with nicely-done anthology segments buoyed by solid cinematography from Tom Colley, who has worked on a bevy of reality TV series and streaming series. So the skill set is there. And you’ll do alright by hitting the big red streaming button.

MOVIE SIGN! Siskel and Ebert in the house!

Doh! Every now and then, Sam and I, through scheduling snafus and our giddy, celluloid drunkenness over our recent “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Fast and Furious” Weeks, and our upcoming “Wolfman,” “Dracula,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll II” Weeks . . . plus our annual November tribute to another Mill Creek 50-films box set (this year: Sci-Fi Invasion), we sometimes review the same, new indie release — twice (Doh, again! Check out our unplanned, B&S-cum-S&E review of Dollhouse).

And just to be clear: I’m the “Siskel” and Sam is the “Ebert.” Yeah, that aisle seat ain’t big enough for the both of us. And, Samuel, no more cracks about me being “Gypsy” and you and Bill Van Ryn are Tom Servo and Crow. That’s not cool — even if you are the Chief Cook and Bottlewasher of B&S and I am just the dumpster pad and grease pit scrubber ’round ‘ere.

Sam’s Take:

Written, directed and produced by Rob Margolies (although IMDB lists three other directors and a different writer), this anthology follows the lives of several people who suddenly discover that they can’t die.

Chelsea (Lindsay Mushett, Blue Bloods) is a high school track star who confesses abuse by a teacher too late. Gary and Vanessa (Agnes Bruckner, who was Kris Jenner in The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Anna Nicole in the 2013 Anna Nicole cable film) are a couple who figure that death can solve their money woes. Ted (Tony Todd!) has to deal with euthanizing his wife Mary. Warren (Freaks and Geeks) discovers new gifts after he dies. And hey — is that Mario Van Peebles I see? It is!

This is an interesting way to approach an anthology film. It’s more drama than horror, but you still may discover something interesting in it.

Currently rolling out on the festival circuit, Immortal will premiere as a DVD and VOD in September via Stonecutter Films and Different Duck Films through Wild Eye Releasing.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Authors: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies. Sam Panico is the curator of B&S About Movies.

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