• Death of April, The


    Released by: MVD Visual
    Released on: October 27, 2015
    Director: Ruben Rodriguez
    Cast: Katarina Hughes, Adam Lowder, Raymartell Moore, Stephanie Domini, Travis Peters
    Year: 2012

    The Movie:

    Megan Mullen (Katarina Hughes) is young, smart, cute and, for the first time in her life, living on her own. She has a loving and devoted family, supportive parents and a brother who seems more like a best friend than a sibling. Despite her idyllic home life, Megan felt something was missing and moved from her hometown in California to the east coast. She quickly found a job and new boyfriend but something was not right in her new apartment. She kept hearing scratching on the walls at night. Megan insisted her new place was haunted, yet no one would believe her. The constant paranormal activity coupled with doubts among her family and friends led to a nervous breakdown with disastrous results.

    Writer-director Ruben Rodriguez’s The Death of April is another entry in the typically horrible faux-documentary subgenre. Aside from a handful of notable, usually comedic, highlights, This is Spinal Tap and Zelig to name two, the majority of films in the genre fail because they are unconvincing. For a genre where the main objective is to create a false reality, coming across as unconvincing is a major downfall. The Death of April surprisingly feels somewhat like a genuine documentary, the film accomplishes this through some well thought out technical aspects and a couple nice performances. Rodriguez overcomes issues related to the footage looking like it came for a unified, and thus unrealistic, source by utilizing various recording devices. Along with a digital video camera, the director employs smartphone cameras, a web cam and a VHS camcorder, this makes the assorted footage feel diverse and authentic. The use of the disparate recording devices also allows the film to realistically have scenes which otherwise would have felt contrived if the footage was recorded by an omnipresent digital video camera. One such scene features a fight between Megan and her boyfriend Tim (Raymartell Moore) at a party. The scene was capture with the use of a smartphone. This gave the moment a sudden, right in the moment feeling that allowed the scene to play without the audience questioning why someone was recording a party amongst friends on a video camera. It is also notable that Rodriguez staged the scene to include background partygoers pulling out their phones to join in the recording of the fight. This brings up the issue of how recording devices have become ubiquitous and our private moments are no longer private. Unfortunately, the film never delves further into this, even though many of Megan’s personal recordings were done for an open viewing video blog.

    Another area in which the film succeeds was with the relationship of Megan and her brother Stephen (Adam Lowder). Hughes and Lowder had a surprising amount of chemistry and a great sense of familiarity when performing together. Their brother-sister relationship felt live-in and real, not something created for the film. Their body language had a comfort that was impressive. The same cannot be said of Hughes and Moore. I never believed their relationship was real, rather it felt awkward and ill at ease. This is similar to the performances of the actors portraying Megan’s parents, Stephanie Domini and Travis Peters. Both actors seemed divorced from the film. Domini shared one scene with Hughes, while Peters was never present with any other actor. This made the parents seem like after thoughts, or at least actors cast at the last minute. I am not sure what, if anything, we are supposed to take away from the fact that Megan’s parents were largely absent from the life of a daughter in the middle of a mental breakdown.

    Along with the uneven performances of the parents, another issue is the film’s length. At only 85 minutes, The Death of April it is not that long of a movie. The problem is there is not enough to sustain the runtime. Unfortunately, the film runs out of creative steam rather early and beings to repeat itself. We see multiple instances of Megan sitting in silence staring at the wall or while getting ready for work. This affects the film’s pace. It was sluggish and plodding. There was really nothing that kept the audience on the edge excitedly waiting for the next reveal. Which is a problem as the film is presented as a mystery. We know something happened to Megan, only we are not sure what it was. Sure, a haunting, whether real or imagined, was involved but we are unsure of the outcome. Rodriguez’s script, however, did nothing to make us care about the mystery. The film was too slow and without much going on to keep the audience interested.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    MVD Visual brings The Death of April to video featuring a nice a 16X9 enhanced 1.78:1 image. The picture quality is good for the most part, however the quality is not consistent. When the footage is from a camera phone or web cam, the image features compression artifacts and loss of clarity. This is not the fault of the disc but rather a deliberate attempt to highlight the changes of the footage’s origin. Other than the intentional defects the image is clean.

    The audio on the release is 2.0 Dolby stereo and surprisingly it is pretty good. Since the film is supposed to be a documentary much of the dialogue is spoken directly to the camera which leads to unobstructed, easily understood audio. There are not all that many sound effects but the ones that are present, mainly scratches and breaking glass, are well mixed. The disc does not feature subtitles, but it really is not an issue.

    The Death of April’s sole extra is a 60 second trailer. The trailer makes the film seem like a Paranormal Activity clone, which I suppose is not too outrageous of a claim.

    The Final World:

    The Death of April is not a terrible film, there are somethings in the film that were well done. The chemistry between Hughes and Lowder is good and Rodriguez did pretty well at creating a believable documentary. However, that is not enough. The film is such a bore. It is way too slow and not much of interest happens to make it worthwhile enough to watch.





















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