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FAILURE! (2023)

Release Date: 08/28/23 [FRIGHTFEST LONDON]
Genre: Comedy. Crime. Drama.

Studio: Alief.

"It follows a man who is given one hour to choose between financial ruin or murder to protect his family." 


There are two challenges in life that a man strives to succeed in: family and his job. Oftentimes, the paths intersect. Or even become one. But what happens when a man has to choose between family and finance? Filmmaker Alex Kahuam breeches that theme in Hitchcockian style. Failure! follows Ted Raimi over the course of an hour where he must make that choice – a decision that includes the all-too easy answer of murder. Kahuam presents it all in a single take giving Raimi the spotlight for the entirety. Failure! is inventive and captivating, but for all the anxiety-driven build up, ultimately lands a little too softly.

Failure! follows James (Raimi – Ash vs Evil Dead, SeaQuest 2032) who has a big debt with an honest bank while being blackmailed over some shady deals. On top of all this? His daughter is getting married and she wants the complete princess package. What can one man do? Well, killing any pesky troublemakers is certainly one way to go.  

Throughout the 97 minute runtime, Raimi shouts on the phone, drinks a lot of whisky, and nervously communes with a ghost. And his performance is masterful. He shifts from a relaxing rapport with his daughter Maria (Melissa Diaz) into a murderous rage against the slimy Alvar (Daniel Kuhlman), all with the finesse of Hamlet.  

Some of the other acting, however, misses the mark that Raimi has otherwise perfectly captured. Yelling, for instance, does not always equate to a portrayal of anger. One to note, though, is Merrick McCartha who smoothly plays the dual role of savior and Satan. Like the Dude’s rug, McCartha ties the room together. 

Kahuam follows in handheld precision as Raimi delivers, at its base, a one-man play. Raimi infuriates on the inadequacies of his staff and how incompetent members of his daughter’s wedding party are. Sometimes the ping-pong style plays like a top match. Other times, like a murderous conclusion, it is comedically abrupt. 

The one-take action lends to a complete theatrical performance instead of being a gimmick to disassemble, beautifully making Failure! similar in style to Hitchcock’s one-take movie Rope. In Rope, two roommates/lovers commit murder to see if they can rise above societal decrees. In a moment of bravura, they host a dinner party with the corpse hidden in plain view. Similarly, Failure! also has a soon-to-be corpse hiding in the wings outside of the wedding party. Both movies are dialogue-heavy allowing the anticipation to organically grow. With Failure! the character study quickly overpowers the narrative.

Where Rope’s finale crashes down like a gavel, Failure! merely simmers. Raimi’s James gets his finale but the wash around him never truly settles. Failure! makes for a good exploration of ideas and presents Raimi’s finest performance to date yet the story’s speculative culmination prohibits Failure! from being a Success!. 

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