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By Rogan Marshall | April 20, 2003

At the beginning of February I broke up with Rhonda, and then – if I may be allowed, in this arguably marginal online arena, to burn a byte or two, getting personal – I fell off the end of something. I began to indulge myself heavily, even dangerously, in narcotics decent company shudders to mention. Several weeks disappeared. The addict lives, or rather hovers, in between things: sickness and health, genius and despond, waking and sleep, life and death. Life got distant, and darkened. I developed a sudden new circle of acquaintances that already, a month or so later, numbers among them the missing, and the deceased, people whose company I enjoyed, whose names I’ve already forgotten. All too recently I have seen and done things I’ll forever forbear to describe.

In this state of affairs, I let things slide on several fronts, and one of them was right here, where you’re reading. I don’t know whether it was the private hell I’ve been living in that made it temporarily impossible to continue watching and evaluating underground pictures for FilmThreat, or whether it was all the fault of this one dastardly movie… “Before I Die.”

On the surface of it, there isn’t much about “Before I Die” to distinguish it from a lot of the crap I watch on a weekly basis: it’s a thoroughly inept, shot-on-video, “erotic” “horror” “feature,” sporting a singularly unattractive cast, with the one redeeming quality that it’s structured in omnibus fashion, so the drift of the unengaging story changes radically every half hour or so.

Like I said, there doesn’t seem to be anything, on the surface of it, that distinguishes this one from the pack, and if this is several shades weaker, even, than average, well, this is a course where downhill tendencies have been, already, duly noted.

But somehow it was different. Somehow the horror and angst of my condition seemed to coalesce and focus in this damnable, hideous picture. “Before I Die” first disrupted, then derailed my process. I couldn’t watch more than ten minutes of it at a time. Then five. Then I couldn’t hit it more than once a day. I found that somehow the worthless meaninglessness of the movie, my personal malaise, and the disheartening state of our nation, and world, became, in my mind, hopelessly entangled. Through a nearly opaque haze of whiskey and drug-addled madness, “Before I Die” still managed to upset and offend my sensibilities to such an extent that, as of this writing, I’m not certain I ever finished watching the movie. This is a level of critical irresponsibility to which I have never previously stooped, which, let me tell you, is a heavy claim to make, round these parts. And through, and maybe because of the haze, I would ask myself the same questions, over and over: what does this movie mean? What does this act of watching it signify? Is the emptiness in here nothing more than a mirror I hold up to the nothingness out there? Or is this goddamned movie the mirror? In either case, it appears, I can see nothing – nothing – nothing at all. I’ve faced a lot of darkness in my time… and in some way I can’t really explain, the time I spent with this movie, “Before I Die,” was as dark as it ever gets.

I feel disillusioned, disaffected, alienated, alone. I’m not sure if I care about criticism, anymore; I’m not sure if I even enjoy movies, anymore. I can’t tell whether I should blame “Before I Die” for this. I think I took some notes, but I can’t seem to find them.

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