Ally Was Screaming is the second feature from Calgary director Jeremy Thomas. His first, The End, had appreciative critics tying themselves in knots not to reveal its mid-plot twist.

In this one, the first twist (though not the last) comes early. Ally (Arielle Rombough) has just died in a fire, leaving behind an abusive ex-husband and a $30-million winning lottery ticket she apparently forgot to check while alive.

But she also didn’t get around to changing her will. When Buddies Seth and Nole (Giacomo Baessato, Charlie Carrick) find the ticket, they wrestle with the morality of keeping the money, and with possibly telling Ally’s stickler-for-the-rules sister, executrix of the will.

They’re pretty sure that if she finds out, she’ll demand that the money go to the undeserving ex. And so, almost by accident, the two otherwise lovable lugs find themselves plotting the perfect murder of the dead woman’s sister, played as just-believably-this-side-of-sainthood by Camille Sullivan.

Winning performances all around are aided and abetted by a smart, talky screenplay. In the early going, Seth and Nole bat around various heinous schemes from a purely philosophical vantage point; every time they get close to suggesting a move from the hypothetical to the practical, one of them will put on the brakes with a rhetorical “risk it?”

As such, we’re never sure until the final scenes what the characters are going to do; clearly, neither are they. The suspense makes the 88-minute running time seem at least 20 minutes longer (in a good way), as laughs and horror balance on a knife edge.

Ally Was Screaming opens Nov. 6 at the Carlton in Toronto, with an opening-night Q&A by actors Charlie Carrick and Niall Matter. It will also play Nov. 13 in Edmonton, and Nov. 16 in Calgary.

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