With Night Of The Living Dead, budgetry constraints forced George Romero to devote more time to his small group trapped in the farmhouse and their interactions, rather than go full-on zombie action. It made for some great social commentary, as well as establishing characters. It’s not always the blood and guts that make a zombie film great. Rather, it’s the characters. With his short film, Name, director/writer Jeremy W. Brown forgoes the gory goods of a zombie film, and instead focus on the often bleak outlook that seems to accompany survivors in these stories.
After a zombie outbreak, a man and woman (Derek Lamar Keeton and Rivera Reese) take refuge in a remote cabin. However, the man was bitten while escaping, leaving the woman to attempt to treat him in vain. Weeks later, after the man dies, the woman is left with her thoughts, struggling to hold on to memories of before the outbreak.
The short unfolds via voiceover from Rivera Reese’s character, who is basically writing in a journal. While Reese does a good job of conveying emotion in her voice, there are moments where it falls into sounding like she’s doing a dramatic reading of a script, rather than telling a story and speaking “from the heart”. Admittedly, it’s a difficult thing to avoid falling into, but there’s a distinct change of feeling in the voice when it does happen. Regardless, Reese does establish the mood and gets in some good lines as the story progresses. The line likening the fight against the infection of a zombie bite to a cancer patient’s fight in chemotherapy might seem a bit harsh in the real world, but in that character’s world, it’s all too real.
For a miniature budget, Brown manages to make the film look quite professional. There are some great shots of the countryside, and the more intimate moments when the woman recollects her memories with her companion also belie the film’s origins. There are some good close-up shots that help bring out the emotion of what’s essentially a film without dialogue, save for the obvious voiceover. Keeton and Reese are able to tell the story through their actions through these emotions. The final shot of the short typifies this, as well as throws in a bit of ambiguity for good measure.
Aside from Reese’s stumbles in the voiceover department, the short did let me down in the name department. No, the film’s name isn’t the problem. Rather, the idea that the short begins with the idea that the woman doesn’t remember her companion’s name. This continues until the final scene, where she suddenly remembers his name. While this might seem like nitpicking, the idea that she can’t remember his name, even after spending weeks with him and tending to his wounds, it flies in the face of reality. Yes, even the woman acknowledges that it might be some sort of post-traumatic amnesia, or that he didn’t even say his name. It’s still hard to believe. Also, those looking for zombie action will be let down with Name, as we only get a series of quick cuts of a brief attack. Then again, this film is meant to be more introspective than action.
For a short, there are some good things going for Brown with Name. The camera work and the editing are nicely executed, with some great writing that taps into some equally-great mental imagery. While the delivery of Reese’s voiceover wasn’t quite as well done, the acting by both her and Keeton are handled well, showcasing emotion and realism without any dialogue. Name is a step in the right direction for Brown. With this serving as a preview, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with full feature productions in the future.