Dinner (John Buchanan, 2013): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed on-line on Vimeo.

  Since the recent discovery of five mutilated bodies, the residents of Cocoa Beach, Florida are cautiously on alert for Brevard County’s first serial killer – except for Jeff, who’s a self-proclaimed “gentleman.”

Jeff (Dennis Marsico) has a nice tan, a strong jaw and just the right amount of stubble.  Believing he’s as smooth as George Clooney, he uses his shades to visually cruise the babes along the boardwalk, while enjoying a cool one on the pier.

His teethy grin gets rejected, as one cutie flips him the bird, so he ogles another as she wriggles into her shorts.  While discreetly removing his wedding ring, Jeff approaches the blond hottie under the guise of searching for an eatery – while standing beneath a sign marked SNACKS.

Politeness gets the better of Christina (Meredith Branham), who doesn’t trust Jeff’s invitation of “just dinner.”  After inquiring about his marital status, Jeff carelessly swears an oath to her “may God strike me dead, if I’m not being honest.”  She reluctantly agrees, but insists on driving and reminds Jeff to “buckle up,” just as he reaches over and carefully readjusts her spaghetti strap.

Later, another apparent victim of the serial killer is found floating in the Indian River.

Dinner  pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock, and is filmed in the grand tradition of his dark humor, and subtle nuances.  The film contains a nicely polished suspense in a neatly woven script, with tight editing, and a scintillating soundtrack, all within 7 minutes – not an easy feat, and quite impressive – a lesson for all film production students.

John Buchanan is a writer, who has sold his work, and been in the business for many years.  As writer, director, and producer, he graciously agreed to the following Q & A:

K. A.  You pay homage to both Roald Dahl and Hitchcock in your film, briefly explain why.

J. B.  When Hitchcock was interviewed by Johnny Carson he mentioned The Visitor, by Roald Dahl, as the creepiest story he’d ever read.  They were both masters of suspense with wonderfully humorous voices, with stories of big unforeseen twists.

K. A.  I like the title Dinner, Hitch used singular word titles many times, what are your favorite Hitchcock films?

J. B.  Vertigo, Notorious, and Psycho.

K. A.  Can you share a little about the Hitchcockian (or rather Herrmannesque), non-diegetic music?

J. B.  The only two things I could guarantee myself and the viewer were a Hitchcockesque blond and music.  Hitch often used whimsical music to set up unnerving scenes, rather than dramatic music for danger.  After many hours of searching, I found the wonderful royalty-free music, from composer Kostas Varotsis.

K. A.  Describe the development, pre/and post-production, and your budget.

J. B.  I believe in the saying “you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” so rather than use a DSLR,  I decided to invest the money and hire a professional cast and crew.  My wonderful DP, Bill Schweikert, is a Hitchcock aficionado whom I discovered on Craigslist.  He referred me to my editor Joe Walker.  The film was shot in one day, with a seven person crew, in my hometown of Cocoa Beach, and completed for $8,000.

K. A.  Dinner will premiere at the London City Film Festival, on October 26th, how exciting is that?  And what are your plans following the film fest?

J. B.  I’m thrilled to get into a respected international festival right away.  I have two goals for the film, one is to build an audience, and get exposure within the industry.  I’m aiming for film festivals, reviews, and press coverage.  I’ve submitted my film to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which is high on my wish list.  I’d also like to develop my film into a low budget, high quality indie, that reflects my own cool, modern take of the Death Wish franchise.

K. A.  Where can the readers of this review screen Dinner?

J. B.  There is a link to Vimeo from the film’s website  www.dinnerthemovie.com  – (I’ve linked this review directly to Vimeo – k.a.).

K. A.  What advice can you offer up-and-coming writers and filmmakers?

J. B.  Technology is democratizing the filmmaking process, just as it did books and music.  Anyone with ambition and a good idea can go make a film, and get it seen.  Don’t think in terms of making a lot of money now.  If you aspire to greatness rather than commercial success, I think everything else you want will come from that.

K. A.  Finally, I loathe being pigeon-holed with this question, but I’m going to ask you, what are your five favorite films of all time?

J. B.  My favorite of all time is the little-known 1966 masterpiece King of Hearts, by Phillipe de Broca, with Alan Bates.  Another favorite that’s hard to come by is The Devils by Ken Russell – the most profoundly disturbing film I’ve ever seen.  My favorite directors are Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and David Lean, so my other three are Vertigo, Sunset Blvd., and Doctor Zhivago.




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