For some time now comedy TV show 'The Flight of the Conchords' has been growing in popularity from it's early cult student following to very much mainstream acceptance with regular screenings on the BBC. Half hour yarns of two struggling musicians from New Zealand trying to make their name in New York, although practically always plotless and inoffensive it's not without its mild comedic charm. So it was with some curiosity that the news of the Flight of the Conchords leads appearing in what was termed a comedy horror "as funny as Shaun of the Dead" (mainstream press quote of course) with the release of the movie Diagnosis Death that at least caught my interest.
Morally corrupt schoolteacher Andre Chang (played by the films co-scripter Raybon Kan) discovers, following a bizarre ghostly experience, that he has terminal cancer. But all is not doom and gloom as he is sent to take part in an experimental drug programme in an old converted lunatic asylum with the hope that the new drugs may extend his life expectancy somewhat. On arriving he meets and bonds with alluring teen bookworm Juliet Reed and the unlikely pair soon end up investigating mysterious goings on at the hospital complex in what ends up being some sort of hallucogenic chilling live action episode of Scooby Doo.
Diagnosis Death is a curious film indeed, perhaps one that many will inevitably be disappointed by. Myself, having misguidedly digested the misinformation from the advance press that the film is some sort of modern take on the gory old slapstick Peter Jackson gems such as Brain Dead and Bad Taste ended up very much numbed by what is in fact a micro low budget ghost chiller with little to no blood or gore on show.
Even more curious is that in delivery Diagnosis Death is somewhat schizophrenic in not knowing what type of genre movie it wants to be. Ideally it should have been made as a straight faced supernatural chiller as director Jason Stutter clearly has the talent to deliver strong brooding atmosphere and jumps aplenty but for whatever reason, with the inclusion of the Flight of the Conchords leads it tries (painfully) hard to be funny which in the main it simply isn't (outside of one standout scene of comedy genius where Rhys Darby has to tell Chang the news that he has terminal cancer) which in turn detracts from any potential scary atmosphere that the film is genuinely developing.
A great shame as with this in mind your left feeling somewhat lacking with the movie as a whole and if it weren't for the welcome uber eye candy distraction of Jessica Grace Smith swanning around in her pyjamas for the duration of the film there's every chance you'd be reaching for the fast forward button on the remote control. Fans of the aforementioned Flight of the Conchords crew should be warned also that their appearance in the movie is strictly limited to all too brief cameo roles so perhaps only for the hardcore fanatics of the TV series.
The DVD release from Revolver is a pretty solid package; the anamorphic widescreen image is, as to be expected for such a new movie, lovely and pin sharp throughout whilst the 5.1 audio is perhaps at times too intrusive with rear effects outweighing the lead vocal track but not so much to ruin your viewing. Extras include a couple of deleted scenes (which for the life of me I just cant understand hit the cutting room floor as they, if anything, give some minor clarity to the scenes they have been shorn from), an amusing and fun audio commentary and a short 'behind the scenes' piece that is pretty much some of the cast and crew goofing about on set whilst the film was in production.
Diagnosis Death is in truth a middling affair that could have been so much more, if writer/director Stutter had stuck to delivering an out and out straight shocker this could have been a real treat but what we end up with is something not unlike (though not as gratifying as) its guest stars TV show - a mildly comedic and inoffensive way to kill some time on a rainy evening.
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Revolver Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|