In the not too distant future the self explanatory Z-virus has swept the globe, nearly claiming all of civilization until Dr. Ben Jacobs (John La Zar) discovers the miracle cure. Masses of undead are under control, all that remains are a few stragglers immune to Dr. Jacobs’ treatment, sadly one of whom is Alice Jacobs (Adrienne Barbeau). Considering the title of Alex Horwitz’s 21 minute short is ALICE JACOBS IS DEAD, well, it’s not hard to figure out the obstacles at hand.
Making a short film is perhaps the hardest task the medium offers. Twenty odd minutes to not only tell a story, but have character development and resolution? Ouch. Unlike a twenty two minute long TV show there is no serialization of events to the narrative or characters and unlike a feature film there’s no 70 extra minutes of wiggle room for the actors to ease into their roles. It’s a daunting task for everyone involved.
All things considered, that makes ALICE JACOBS IS DEAD a striking accomplishment. Sure, casting Adrienne Barbeau hedges the bets greatly for a FOG loving fan like me, but what really makes Horwitz’s film so commendable is that it’s a touching tale of two lovers refusing to let go. It’s as much about old age as it is about zombism, which is a synergy of two normally unrelated elements I wish most feature films had the wits to fuse together. The kind doctor must balance his commitment to saving the world with the commitment to saving his wife, even if it risks mutating the Z-virus strain into something uncontainable. ALICE JACOBS is the kind of horror movie whose intensity comes bottled in ideas instead of jump scares, this is thinking man’s horror.
I’m sure it goes without saying that most people who wouldn’t have the patience for a bittersweet tale like Horwitz’s are the kind of people who wouldn’t be watching a short film in the first place. For the rest of us, it’s a chance to support an unsung side of filmmaking. The cast is fantastic. John La Zar carries the burden of the world and his love in great stride and, of course, Adrienne Barbeau is a delight as always. It’s wonderful to still see her on screen and I hope ALICE JACOBS IS DEAD finds a large audience because she braves some things here most actresses a fraction of her age and experience would never dream of doing. Shot on a RED Camera (nerd in me swoons), the digital cinematography sports none of the soul-less aesthetics associated with the majority of no/low-budget films, be they short or feature, which makes it an example I’d point any aspiring director towards.
I know Alex Horwitz will be bringing his film to this year’s Comic Con, so if you’re in the San Diego area you’d do well to check ALICE JACOBS IS DEAD out on July 23rd. Beyond that, though, I’m unsure of the destiny of this thoughtful, insightful oddity. I know I can’t be the only one who fond of it so I’m positive it’ll find its way into the public at large in due time, if only for Barbeau’s show-stealing scene so good I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it here.