Jemima: Dating is Murder and Jemima: Photographic Trophy Movie Reviews

Written by Steve Pattee

The hardest part is disposing of the body.
– Jemima

Directed by Uisdean Murray
Written by Uisdean Murray & Alan Hutton
2002, 8 minutes, Not Rated

Joy McAvoy as Jemima
Al Mariotti as Eric

Jemima: Photographic Trophy
Directed by Uisdean Murray
Written by Uisdean Murray & Alan Hutton
2004, 14 minutes, Not Rated
Joy McAvoy as Jemima
Duncan Edwards as Raul


I love shorts and series. I have a lot of respect for a filmmaker who can pack a punch in a 30 minute time frame, because that's a razor thin line to work on when you have to worry about character development and story arc. But, sometimes, when it works, it really works. Oculus is a fine example of an excellent short. Yet, when a filmmaker can throw 8 minutes of goodness my way, I'm very impressed. Such is the case with Dating is Murder.

If a man's head gets caved within the first minute of an 8-minute short, you know the short is going to be good. If the person doing the caving is a firecracker with a smoking hot accent, you know the short is going to rock. Jemima: Dating is Murder rocks.

Murder opens fabulously. A man sits in a tub, lovingly getting washed by his girlfriend, the psychotic Jemima (superbly played by Scottish beauty Joy McAvoy). Almost immediately after the film gets settled, Jemima smashes in her sweeties head with what looks like a brick. Then, for the rest of the flick — in voiceover — she instructs us on not only the best way to get rid of a body, but how she picks her beaus. Murder is everything that suckfest American Psycho 2 wanted to be.

Director/co-writer Uisdean Murray plays it smart in Murder. When Jemima is disposing of her (now) ex-boyfriend, he shows nothing. You see Jemima working the bolt cutter; you hear the bones being cut. You see Jemima raising the knife; you hear it plunging into the heart, the neck, the artery. But the only thing you see is bloodsplatter. This may very well be because of not having the resources to effectively dismember someone, but it works regardless. Far too often, new filmmakers will think something is "good enough" — and it never is — instead of what they can easily do: Leave it up to the audience's imagination. If something is setup well, as is the case here, it will work and will be much better than the "good enough" option. (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Blair Witch Project are very good examples of audience imagination participation.)

Murder's plot is not a tough one — Jemima picks up men, toys with them for a bit, then kills — and dismembers — them when she's done. As if dating didn't suck enough, we men have to watch out for the really crazy women, too.

What works for Murder is the blow-by-blow commentary by Jemima in the form of a voiceover (not unlike Hunting Humans, American Psycho and TV's "Dexter"). Joy McAvoy is a great choice for the role of Jemima, as she is not only easy on the eyes, she's got a stellar accent. Couple that voice with spoken, detailed instruction on such helpful things like how to dismember a body (injected with a light sense of humor) and you have an entertaining short.

Murder is actually a bonus feature found on Jemima: Photographic Trophy, and I had actually watched it first (online), so I went in thinking it was part one of the planned Jemima trilogy (Trophy being the second part and the third, Sessions of the Mind, is still in production). However, after listening to the director's commentary, I found that Photographic Trophy is actually a prequel to Dating is Murder. It's also noted on the back of the DVD case that Murder is the sequel (even though it was made two years earlier). I prefer to go into movies with no expectations, but I really need to start reading these box covers.

There is no true end to Dating is Murder (and rightfully so). Much of the short is her getting rid of her boyfriend, where the last part she meets a new one, fade to black.

Having enjoyed the hell out of Murder, I threw in Photographic Trophy with high expectations, but I was slightly let down.

Picking up an indeterminate time before Murder, Jemima hasn't yet made that jump from looking for a man to date to looking for men to kill. She seems to have found a potential mate in Raul (Duncan Edwards), but we quickly learn that he's just another jackass.

In Murder, Jemima was confident and cocky, where Trophy shows another side of our lead; shy and somewhat insecure. It also shows another layer of McAvoy's acting ability, a layer she absorbs as easily and as believable as Jemima's first incarnation. She is quite good playing the character both ways (although there is something much more attractive to her when she's slicing and dicing).

But where Trophy disappoints is making the Worst Assumption Ever: That horror fans have no imagination. This is an assumption Hollywood constantly makes, and constantly pays for. They decide to "explain" Jemima's insanity by providing another layer to it. Hannibal Rising, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Rob Zombie's Halloween all have the same thing in common; they want to explain the antagonist and it rarely, if ever, works. We horror fans sometimes don't need an explanation. Some people are just born bad, and we can accept that (see Haute Tension for a perfect example of that — minus the shit ending, of course).

Fortunately for the filmmakers, however, they manage to skate by this major faux pas by the skin of their teeth through, ironically, some crafty writing. They throw in a new wrinkle to Jemima's character and I have to hand it to them because, in the context of the short, it would have never have worked without it.

Both shorts are extremely well done, from top to bottom. Acting, directing, cinematography and music are all top notch. Dating is Murder is easily the better of the two, but both are incredibly enjoyable flicks that have me eagerly looking forward to Sessions of the Mind, the final in the trilogy.

The screener I got was loaded with special features, including four commentaries, a making of documentary (that is really quite good, if a bit frustrating for things said), storyboard comparisons, deleted scenes and more. I really hope these features will find their way to the final release.


Jemima: Dating is Murder

Movie: 4 Stars

Jemima: Photographic Trophy

Movie: 3.5 Stars

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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