MOVIE REVIEW: JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: CARTER SMITH / SCREENPLAY: CARTER SMITH / STARRING: LIV TYLER, JUDY GREER, CAMERON MONAGHAN, MORGAN SAYLOR / RELEASE DATE: TBC
When bullied outcast Jamie Marks is discovered naked and lifeless next to a local river, high school jock Adam finds himself strangely drawn to the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. Adam begins a relationship with Gracie, a loner girl who collects rocks and who discovered the body of social pariah Jamie. Boding over their sudden shared connection to Jamie, Adam and Gracie’s wintry small town gets even more chilly as they start seeing the spectre of the dead boy. At first he is outside a window, but soon Adam is conversing the with the ghost in his wardrobe and finding out how he can help the deceased teen in order to give him some peace.
Jamie Marks is the kind of kid who no one wanted to speak to at school, and even after his death, no one wants to speak about him. Ignored or bullied, he appears to Adam and Gracie as a near nude Harry Potter lookalike, reaching out from the afterlife in a desperate bid to be noticed.
Adapted from the novel One for Sorrow, director Carter Smith’s follow up to grisly Mexican set horror The Ruins is part coming of age tale and part ghost story. With its sombre score and eerie atmosphere, Jamie Marks is Dead straddles genres, sitting often uncomfortably between teen drama and something more unconventional. Like its confused protagonist, the film is torn between two worlds; Adam between the worlds of the living and the dead and the film itself between dealing with down to earth issues and exploring the afterlife.
As Adam is drawn further and further into Jamie’s world, he becomes more distanced from Gracie, his peers and his family. With Gracie coming on strong in her icy blue bedroom, Adam retreats (literally) into the closet with Jamie, exploring the isolation and identities of those like Jamie, whose lives ended in tragedy. Jamie Marks is Dead then becomes an occasionally chilling and inevitably touching tale of friendship, loneliness and love.
With its wintry landscapes, morbid, moody teens and run down locales, the supernatural never overwhelms the elegiac mood. Fans of TV’s Homeland may find Morgan Saylor a highly unwelcome presence as she still hasn’t quite managed to reign in her tendency to overdo her emoting. The subplot involving Liv Tyler as Adam’s recently paralysed mother is stagnant from the start while Jamie Marks the ghost is too communicative, and far too present to be either spooky or particularly gripping.
Jamie Marks is Dead is a work of melancholy originality; resorting to some familiar horror beats but ultimately exploring identity, isolation and loss in a hauntingly downbeat and mostly understated way.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10