Before the review, let’s get the two elephants out of the room.

  • Elephant One. This is not a short film. It is a video game trailer. That said, for a video game trailer, it does an amazing job of being a well-considered short film.
  • Elephant Two. I’ve never played the video game because reviews indicate that it does not live up to its trailer’s potential. This review is just for the short film/trailer.


If you broke this film down to hashtags, they would read:

  • #FamilyVacationGoneZombie
  • #FamilyThatSticksTogether
  • #NotWithoutMyDaughterUntilDadThrowsHerOutAWindow
  • #LastFamilyPhoto

Dead Island Logo

A young mother, father, and their tween daughter are on an island vacation when zombies!

[If you type “zombies” is there a need to type “attack”? What else will zombies do? “When zombies text.” “When zombies channel surf.” “When zombies vote.” No zombies do those things!

… er… hmm…]

The film’s premise is straight-forward which allows the storytelling to be intricate.

The film is wordless but not mute. The emotion is built by the soundtrack and well-acted characters (“well-acted” within the limits of six year old CGI. What looked triple-A in 2011 looks unpolished today). The storytelling is a reverse chronological order tale – it literally runs backwards – intercut with flashbacks.

It’s an unfolding action-horror sequence but the amazing part is, for so brief – 3 minutes and 6 seconds – a tale, it pulls hard at the heartstrings with more skill than many productions. That’s because of the star of this film, the editing. The editing elevates the storytelling from a straightforward horror scene to an emotional story worth seeing.

Dead Island

Not sure I’m right about the storytelling and the editing being the stars? Compare the original cut to IGN’s chronological edit that runs from the logical start to finish. Seeing the story from different perspectives triggers different emotions. Watch them both and you decide which is better?

The movie has one glaring plot question (not a plot hole, just a question that goes unanswered) – Why was the tween daughter out of the parent’s room while the zombies were rampaging across the resort? The parent’s room only has one bed so it’s easy to assume they got their daughter her own room to sleep in but… where? That answer may be way the girls was running down the hall in the first place.

Dead Island – Trailer (2011)

Original cut:

IGN’s chronological edit:



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Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).


The Birch movie poster

The Birch movie poster

Happy 2017!

In the tradition of Amanda Makepeace’s short film reviews, I am sharing and reviewing:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film

Sword and sorcery speaks to me. Those never-existed fantasy worlds and characters speak to me. In my regular blog series, I write about my quest to buy a resume that will elevate me from a tabletop role-playing game wanna-lancer to freelancer. I want to enter that field because I have sword and sorcery stories that I want to tell.

Where does The Birch fit into that? [SPOILER WARNING – The film is linked below so skip ahead, watch the short and then come back for my thoughts.] The movie takes place in the modern-day UK so you have to squint just a bit to see it as fantasy sword and sorcery. If you squint you’ll see a spellbook and magic and an elemental and the enemy uses a knife and the final battle takes place in the woods. Sword and sorcery veiled by modern clothing and backpacks and streets and a bedroom.

In D&D* terms, The Birch is about a young wizard who is given a spellbook by his dying mother in order to protect him. He is being bullied and she cannot save him but she knows a secret that can. After studying the spellbook, he uses magic to summon an earth elemental to be his protector and surrogate mother.

The Birch

The Birch

If this were D&D, it would be an excellent backstory of what drove a character to become a wizard. It delves into the origin of their spellbook, their mystical lineage, what motivated them to cast their first spell and why they can never turn back from that path.

This origin story leaves open future campaign plot points. Did the boy get away with the murder? What happened to the birch? Does it still obey the wizard or is there a darker, more tragic end to their relationship. The deepest reach might be, what killed mother? There are worlds of possibilities generated by 4 minutes and 31 seconds of story. Need a bit of horror magic for the New Year? I recommend:

The Birch (2016) – Horror Short Film
Directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton
Written by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton and Cliff Wallace
Full credits and production details at BloodyCuts and at IMDb.

4 minutes and 31 seconds of horror:

*For sword and sorcery, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) provide so much of the glossary.

Short Film: Code 8

You are in for a treat today! Code 8 is a short film that was created as a proof for a feature film. The creators ran an IndieGoGo back in March of this year–a mega successful crowdfunding campaign. This is a movie I want to see! Here’s a description from that campaign:

The film takes place in a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.

The story follows a young man with special powers (Amell) struggling to find work as a day laborer. After a dispute over payment, he finds himself in a confrontation with a police officer (Kang) and the autonomous robots backing him up.

Gate 128 – Short Film By Henry Ceiro

Gate 128, a mysterious place, promising salvation from the extinction of the female species, draws two struggling survivors (Rose and Camilo) in a post-apocalyptic world. The last known female on earth, and her protector must finish their dangerous journey past the world outside of Gate 128.

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Gate 128 (PG-13) is a little weak in spots but I like the premise–post-apocalypse with a touch of Children of Men. It’s a diamond in the rough. Let me know in the comments what you think!

Short Film: Dark Origins

One of the highlights from Dragon Con 2014 (besides being in the art show!) was taking some time out to enjoy the Dragon Con Independent Film Festival. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was a film festival. Dark Origins is from the Horror track (Demons, Ghosts, Aliens, & Monsters). This 12+ minute film was one of my top three.

A psychologist discovers the terrifying trauma haunting her young patient may in fact lurk beyond the girl’s fractured mind.

Directed by Evan Randall Green; Produced by Evan Randall Green; Written by Evan Randall Green


DARK ORIGINS – Short Horror Film 720p from Evan Randall Green on Vimeo.

Short Film: Spoiler


Another great short from my personal archive… Spoiler.

The zombie apocalypse happened — and we won.

But though society has recovered, the threat of infection is always there — and Los Angeles coroner Tommy Rossman is the man they call when things go wrong.