On a farm in Oklahoma, an old man who we get know as being Grandpa (Jack C. Hays) sits at a dinner table. Though he seems to be alone, he’s got three glasses of wine sitting in front of the other chairs, along with with a glass for himself.
Things haven’t been easy for Grandpa since Grandma passed away. His two grandchildren, Hailey (Eden McGuire) and Kevin (Ben Richardson, who also directed the film) arranged for a caretaker to live with him but, when they stop by for a visit, they discover that the caretaker has vanished and Grandpa seems to be convinced that there are people sitting at the table with him. When his grandchildren try to clean up the table, he snaps at them not to touch anyone’s drinks. There’s a ritual going on and his well-meaning grandchildren better not interrupt it. At times, Grandpa seems to be perfectly lucid. At other times, he expresses surprise when Kevin tells him that it’s not a good idea to keep a big box of rat poison with all of the cereal. Is Grandpa losing it or is there something else happening that only he can understand?
Clocking in at a little over 10 minutes (not including the end credits) and deliberately paced without ever being slow, A Little Dead is a nicely atmospheric piece of country gothic. On the one hand, it is a story of a man who may or may not be living with spirits. On the other hand, I think it can be argued that the film is also a metaphor for the mixed emotions that many people have about the feelings of responsibility that they feel towards older relatives and the guilt that comes from feeling that maybe they were not there as much as they should have been. There’s a lot of people like this film’s Grandpa, who are living alone and who are only occasionally visited by younger family members who are, for the most part, checking in to see if they still have their mind and if they’re still capable of taking care of themselves. Is Grandpa talking to actual “people” at the table or is he just talking to the lingering memories of the people who used to be there? And are his grandchildren correct to be concerned about him or are they just dealing with their own feelings of guilt?
A Little Dead is also an enjoyable little horror story. It’s the type of story that you would might expect to find in an old horror comic book, complete with a nice little twist at the end. The film makes good use of that old farmhouse and the desolate country landscape. If you have spent anytime in the rural midwest, you will immediately recognize the film’s milieu. If there were ghosts to be found, that’s definitely where they would probably be living.
This is one to keep an eye out for. Pour yourself a glass and relax with A Little Death.