HANK BOYD IS DEAD *** USA 2015 Dir: Sean Melia. 76 mins
Writer-director Sean Melia’s feature debut, shot in New Jersey, is a smart, small-scale black comedy that’s clever enough to avoid outright farce and confident enough to pull off a dialogue-driven, theatrically styled conceit. The Hank Boyd in question may have murdered a young local girl and could have even been a serial killer, but he committed suicide before any trial could take place and speculation is rampant about his true guilt.
Stefanie E Frame went to school with Hank and, while she helps prepare the catering for his funeral, becomes embroiled in a nefarious plot involving the late, alleged murderer’s extended family. Largely unfolding in a single interior location, this well acted, modest oddity is framed by somewhat intrusive pseudo-documentary talking heads of interested parties discussing Hank’s background. Childhood home movie excerpts also punctuate the modern-day narrative. It may well have worked better had Melia merely focused on the unfolding events in the Boyd house, since the escalating pre-funeral scenario is both well observed and increasingly perverse. The movie’s dark wit grows as the situation becomes ever more messed-up and Melia relishes the chance for ironic, inappropriate family sentiment (“And he loved Christmas so much…”) prior to a pleasingly black-hearted climactic revelation / confrontation signified by the line “Give Daddy a hug….!”
Review by Steven West