What Death Leaves Behind showed up in my inbox, a strange indie horror/thriller that I’d never heard of before. Now, it’s not infrequent for an indie to arrive in my box, but it is strange when a movie shows up – and it’s thought-provoking. In this case, the story of a man who has an organ transplant and begins to see visions of past murders provides a wild, unconventional thrill ride that can only be compared to stranger things like Memento.
Directed by Scott A. Hamilton from a script by Chad Morton and Rachel K. Ofori, the movie follows Jake Warren (Khalil McMillan) from dialysis and treatment to receiving his new kidney and the nightmares that follow. Intent on being non-linear, the film jumps around in ways that can be confusing, but it also adds to the general madness that invades all of Warren’s thoughts. He begins to distrust his wife, distances himself from his friends, and seems to become more reliant on his trips to the bar.
But his madness is induced by something – he’s trying to figure out what exactly is causing the nightmares, and what is happening to the people the news keeps reporting about nightly – the people whose bodies are showing up in the river. His obsession drives him, even as his actions become more and more bizarre. Is it all in his head or is there something spiritual-physical connected to his kidney?
While I’m not convinced the story satisfactorily wraps up, it raises some interesting questions. Many of them revolve around our understanding of organ donation – and what we turn our minds from. For someone to receive most organs in a state that they can be transferred, they must come from someone who died (ironically, with the exception of a kidney), usually early and/or tragically. The people in Warren’s group discuss the ethics of this – and it certainly plays out in this hybrid thriller/horror flick.
The conversation might begin with the film, but it’s definitely one that will linger in its horror after the film has wrapped.