'Tell Me How I Die': Film Review

Before this movie ends, you'll really want to know.
9/16/2016

A group of college students experience murderous side effects during a clinical drug trial in D.J. Viola's horror film.

The next time you excitedly begin taking a promising new drug for whatever condition is ailing you, keep in mind that there's little doubt that people have died to make it possible. And they were probably young and very good looking.

Not because they suffered any ill effects from the medication, mind you, but rather because experimental drug trials, at least of the cinematic variety at least, inevitably lead to no good, with serial killers involved more often than not.

Such is certainly the case in D.J. Viola's B-horror movie Tell Me How I Die, in which a group of young college students are ensconced in a hulking and isolated medical facility while being paid to participate in the trial of a new memory-curing drug. It turns out that the drug works all too well, having the unintended side effect of giving its users the ability to see into the future. Which, in the case of this hapless group of human guinea pigs, turns out to be their own deaths at the hands of a homicidal maniac who must be taking the same drug himself, because he seems to know what they're going to do before they do it. Oh, and there just happens to be a raging blizzard outside.

Ho-hum, that old chestnut of a plot, you might say, and you'd be right. Tell Me How I Die never lives up to the juicy potential of its title that would have well served a 1940s Val Lewton horror film. Although that estimable director would have certainly brought more style, flair and imagination to the concept, which comes across here like a cut-rate version of the Final Destination series, only without the cool deaths.

To be fair, the screenplay, written by the director along with James Hibberd and Rob Warren Thomas, at least tries to inject some cleverness to the proceedings, such as when one of the students, after coming up with a particularly baroque theory, sheepishly explains, "I watch a lot of Doctor Who." And when one of the scientists falls victim to the drug himself, he plaintively inquires, "At least there's no anal leakage, right?"

"Not in this version, no," he's informed.

Featuring cheesy digital effects and bland performances from its youthful cast, which includes Ryan Higa (a YouTube performer whose videos have been viewed 2.9 billion times, according to the always reliable Wikipedia), Tell Me How I Die doesn't even have the smarts to be snappily paced. By the time the seemingly endless film reaches its conclusion, the title will seem like wish fulfillment.

Production: Big Block Media Holdings
Distributor: Base Station
Cast: Nathan Kress, Virginia Gardner, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Ryan Higa, Mark Furze, Ethan Peck, William Mapother, Mark Rolston
Director/executive producer: D.J. Viola
Screenwriters: D.J. Viola, James Hibberd, Rob Warren Thomas
Producers: Andrew Alter, Scott Benson, Derek Goldberg, Jack Heston, Scott Prisand, Kenny Solomon, Christopher Ursitti
Director of photography: David McGrory
Production designer: John Selmo
Editor: Marc Bach
Costume designer: Christina Bushner
Composer: Jose Villalobos
Casting: Nancy Nayor
Not rated, 107 minutes

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