People who deal with death everyday are a special breed, as they confront horrible inflictions and maintain compassion to face the grieved. But how often does special translate to disturbed?
Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) is an extremely talented med student. He is engaged to Gwen (Alyssa Milano), a lawyer-in-training, and looking at a bright future in medicine. But first he must complete his residency in the morgue of a Los Angeles hospital. Initially, Jake Gallow (Michael Weston) and his classmates appear threatened by Ted’s astute deductions but instead they view his skill as a qualification to invite him to play their game. The goal of the game is to see which of them can commit the perfect murder; i.e. one in which none of the players can determine the cause of death.
At first glance, this is somewhat reminiscent of 1990’s Flatliners but these would-be doctors go one step further to test their skills. Rather than impossibly reviving the deceased, this group expertly produce the dead. Their respect for the departed is limited, as the opening sequence suggests, and the fact that they murder evildoers alleviates any guilt they may feel. The story is intriguing though simultaneously heinous and the great care taken to ensure realistic anatomies and sets only accentuates the narrative.
The actors are unnervingly blasé about their actions. To prepare for their roles, the filmmakers and cast spent several days observing in a real morgue. Ventimiglia and Weston’s rivalry is tangible as they compete to one-up each other. Johnny Whitworth provides the expected sarcasm, while Keir O’Donnell’s outcast is constantly hovering around the periphery. However, the female characters Juliette (Lauren Lee Smith) and Catherine (Mei Melançon) are little more than sex objects in the deadly game.
The special features are interesting. “Creating the Perfect Murder” contains interviews with the cast and filmmakers, in which they discuss their experiences in the morgue and on set. “The Cause of Death” explores the authenticity of the film in regards to design and practice. Finally, the feature commentary is the director, screenwriters and producer poking fun at the flick, the cast and intermittently providing a factoid.