Sam Did It

You may have heard about the five stages of grief, but Sam Did It details the five stages of meeting your dead hero. Yes, this is an incredibly specific occurrence to have warranted five stages—three would be pushing it—but I’ve already committed to this analogy, and it would be cowardly to turn back now.

For context, the titular Sam (Dominic Burgess) is an employee at a morgue. As with most 9-to-5 workers, he spends the day with earbuds lodged in his head, attempting to convince himself that he’s anywhere but work. A body comes in, and Sam pulls back the blanket, at which point he discovers that this is no ordinary corpse, but the corpse of the actor, Alfred Molina (Alfred Molina). The average morgue worker might cock an eyebrow and tell their spouse about it when he or she gets home, but Alfred Molina happens to be Sam’s hero, which, in all honesty, is a bit of an odd choice—no offense to Mr. Molina. There’s some better hero material out there, like M. Emmet Walsh.

“…an employee at a morgue…discovers that this is no ordinary corpse, but the corpse of the actor, Alfred Molina…”

Upon seeing Molina, Sam descends into the five stages of meeting your dead hero. The first can be called “elation,” during which you’re so full of shock and joy that you forget your hero is dead and begin rattling off everything you’ve always imagined yourself saying. All of that time fantasizing has wound you up like a toy soldier, and you can’t help but act out every imagined scenario. The second stage is “despair,” characterized by the sudden realization that your hero is dead, which is partially a result of the hero being unresponsive to your ravings. I’ll leave the other stages for you to experience yourself, through the film or your life, whichever comes first.

As is hopefully apparent by my loose description of the plot, this short film, written and directed by its star, Dominic Burgess, is a clownish comedy that glides along the surface of its concept like a figure skater. Despite all the humor revolving around someone’s pale remains, I would hesitate to call the movie a dark comedy. It’s too cheery for that.

The idea that holds everything together and Molina’s gameness may be enough to attract eyeballs, but is it funny? Sam is a comedic character that appears to be very much in fashion; if commercials for network sitcoms haven’t led me astray. He’s one of those overanxious teddy bears who can’t help but make a fool out of himself, but he’s too disarming for anyone to get too mad at him. Make what you will of that, but the roller coaster of emotions that Molina’s presence sends Sam down is amusing and in the end, leads to a solid punchline. It’s not a One, Two, Three caliber punchline, but Burgess isn’t getting pulled out of frame by a hook, either.

“…ursts through the door and unleashes an unprovoked hailstorm of medical mumbo-jumbo.”

My favorite moment came from the only character who’s not Sam or Alfred Molina, Doctor Hunt (Harley Jane Kozak). When you least suspect it, she bursts through the door and unleashes an unprovoked hailstorm of medical mumbo-jumbo. Not since Picard asked Riker how to navigate a space storm has such nonsense filled the air. It could have been thoroughly researched and perfectly logical for all I know. I’m a writer, not a medical professional.

Fans of Alfred Molina will find much to enjoy in Sam Did It, as will fans of Jack London, oddly enough. For those who have flirted with dark comedies in the past but have found them too, uh—what’s the word—lightless, this short film is an excellent place to insert your toe.

Sam Did It (2018) Written and Directed by Dominic Burgess. Starring Dominic Burgess, Alfred Molina, Harley Jane Kozak.

6 out of 10 stars

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