It always happens. You get the guys together for bowling, some hoops, or in this case, a poker game, and theres a Ken. You know Ken. Hes the one thats always late, holding up the game and leaving you just sitting there, waiting. Its work, hell say when he finally shows up, and even then he cant concentrate on the gamenope, hes brought some work along to finish up. It doesnt really matter what that work is. Ken could be an accountant, or a computer programmer, or a tax preparer. Why cant he leave this stuff at the office?
In The Fifth, thats the question that dominates the conversation as three of four friends welcome a new fifth to their weekly poker game. Brian is excited to be there. Hes heard about the game and is looking forward of an evening of men playing cards. Jerrys a bit grumpy, but thats just his way. Finally Ken shows up, and yes, hes brought work with him: the corpse of a hooker. As is calmly explained to Brian, Ken is a serial killer. No, this isnt horror. It’s dark, dark comedy. The problem isnt that Kens a murderer who carries out unwholesome acts on his victims lifeless bodies, but that he just cant separate work from poker.
Writer/director Ryan A. Levin doesnt hold back. Theres plenty of blood spray (which really can slow down a game) and twisted dialog (its hard to decide if you want to cut off a victims face and wear it), which will leave all but the most sensitive viewer breathless from laughter. For those sensitive viewers: the language will have them running for cover before the first mention of the bowl made from dried human skin. Its the dichotomy of Kens blood-letting and violence with the matter-of-fact acceptance from his friends that makes the jokes hit.
The Fifth is a small film (one set and limited movement) but looks clean, crisp, and professional. Tight direction is enhanced by actors who know how to play up a line. Sam Lloyd is the standout as the nebbish psychopath, making the dilemma of having ones prostitute-victim escape through a hole in a fence equivalent to the office copier breaking down. The rest of the cast support him as smiling or horrified straight men producing almost as many laughs.
The film has a strong Scrubs connection. Levin was a production assistant on the TV series as well as part time script writer, Sam Lloyd (madman Ken) a regular cast member, and Robert Beckwith and George Miserlis (two of the more accepting card players) have made guest appearances.
The Fifth first came to my attention as a submission to the 07 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival (I am the festivals director in case that bit of trivia slipped through the cracks). It won for best Dark Comedy and went on to pick up the Audience Award at the Dead By Dawn fest and took the Golden Prize as Best Short Film at the Fantasia Film Festival.