8 Found Dead


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

8 Found Dead
"It’s a cute idea but a tricky one to pull off."

On her way out to the remote house in the desert, Jessie (Jenny Tran) talks to her mother and boyfriend on the phone, losing signal as she approaches the turn-off. As she arrives and opens the door, a low camera angle makes sure we notice just how short her shorts are. In the bedroom, where she gets changed, she bends right over with her back to it, but we still notice the silhouette of somebody passing by the window outside. Soon she is outdoors on a sun lounger, wearing a bikini, and the camera alternates between lingering on her body and lingering on the axe by the nearby wood pile. We all know what’s going to happen here.

Knowing that we know, and that we make certain assumptions about slasher films, 8 Found Dead uses this very conventional initial sequence to introduce a mystery focused on the guessing game which viewers used to such fare will likely be playing anyway: who is going to die, and in what order? As it develops, we follow two police officers who are investigating its aftermath, observing clues as they do, uncovering more and more of the scene. We are invited to try to piece together the preceding events.

Copy picture

It’s a cute idea but a tricky one to pull off, and as you might expect, it’s most effective in the early stages when we have less to go on. This is also the part of the film most focused on character, when we get to see three pairs of characters in isolation and observe the way each individual behaves when in company only with someone they know and trust.

First up are Carrie (Aly Trasher) and her partner Ricky (Eddy Acosta), the latter gently trying to remind the former why she agreed to go out to the house in the desert for a weekend which will be more about networking than fun but will allow him to hang out with his friend Sam. Next we meet Sam (Alisha Soper) and her partner Dwayne (William Gabriel Grier), who are also preparing for that trip, whilst Dwayne tries to avoid getting caught up in one of the influencer videos through which Sam has been trying desperately to build her career. Finally, we meet to aforementioned cops, Blake (Laura Buckles) and Bobby (Patrick Joseph Rieger), who are bickering over their coming divorce whilst continuing to take care of each other as friends and in a professional capacity.

These little character portraits (complemented by a well judged cameo from Nancy Linehan Charles as a local diner waitress) set the film on a firm footing and give us reasons to care about what happens. Already, we will be expecting drama. Carrie is stressed. Sam has a big announcement to make. Ricky suspects that Sam doesn’t know that Carrie used to date Dwayne. Any number of things could go wrong – and yet before long, viewers will be wondering if these two couples are ever going to meet.

There’s another couple at the house when they arrive, sixtysomething Richard (Tim Simek) and Liz (Rosanne Limeres, who is married to Simek in real life), and we see each of the young couples arrive and meet them and stress out about the double booking and explain that they’re supposed to meet friends there, but we don’t know in which order. Nor do we know why the couple in the house insist, each time, that they have seen nobody else.

As most of the characters are themselves actors, there’s a lot of comment on the industry here, both direct and indirect. A early suggestion that Carrie may be jealous of Sam, highlighting the perceived advantage of youthful looks, is balanced by the obvious advantages of age which Liz, a theatre professional, demonstrates as she pushes both younger women out of their comfort zones. Both she and Richard have that well-honed charisma which makes it easy to manipulate people or suddenly dominate a conversation. Violence is only one of the forms of cruelty on display here.

The difficulty with this is that when characters wear masks we don’t get to see who they really are, and that’s as true psychologically as it is physically. it’s a problem which director Travis Greene never really overcomes. There are very few moments in which we get a sense of Richard and Liz as people, and this makes it hard to care about them or their games. What should be compelling easily tips over into mere annoyance. 8 Found Dead is very slick and clever but the longer it goes on, the less viewers have a reason to invest.

There are some cute touches. Greene makes use of that old trick of David Lynch’s, letting us hear the sound of a needle bumping along on a record after the song has finished, but here it’s a prelude to something else. Little hints of racism in the way the older couple treat Ricky make him not so much uncomfortable as willing to write off things he ought to take more seriously as mere white people clumsiness. The diner scenes are nicely played throughout, and many viewers will find themselves smiling when one customer requests only dry white toast.

8 Found Dead is a nice little puzzle but sadly, in the end, it lacks the depth to be more than that. It feels like an early career experiment which might be productively revisited when Greene and writer Jonathan Buchanan have a bit more experience under their belts.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2023
Share this with others on...
8 Found Dead packshot
Two couples go on a weekend getaway in the middle of the desert, only to discover that their Airbnb is already occupied. It's a long and bloody night told from four points-of-view.

Director: Travis Greene

Writer: Jonathan Buchanan

Starring: Alisha Soper, Nancy Linehan Charles, Jenny Tran, Laura Buckles, Tim Simek

Year: 2022

Runtime: 73 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Grimmfest 2023

Search database: