“Blood on the Plain” Review
I thought I’d take a break from the insanity of the awards season to provide a little spotlight on an outstanding short film to come out of the Chicago area. Having spent six years in film school, I can both understand and relate to what it’s like to be an unrecognized talent, attempting to make a standout film with practically no budget. With that being said, to this little endeavor in moviemaking, I say “bravo.”
The story is set against the backdrop of small-town life in Kansas on the day of the high school homecoming dance. A tribe of people, thought to be extinct for hundreds of years, have returned, evolved into a form of creature never before seen or imagined. Seeking revenge for the sins of the town’s ancestors, the demons strike at what is most precious to them, prompting the residents to band together and put a stop to the evil, once and for all.
Director Mac Eldridge (helmer of “Chemical 12-D,” which played at last year’s Fantasia Fest in Montreal), has gone above and beyond in crafting a fantastic, cross-genre experience: a horror-western. Imagine, if you will, the ominous, wayfaring overtones of “No Country for Old Men” meeting the gruesome action and thrills of “Predator.” The film packs some genuinely philosophical vibes that, while not reaching fruition, raise its caliber a notch or two above what a short like this could normally offer, and yet never skimps on its level of pure excitement.
For a movie in which the characters are not usually the main draw, the actors really hold their own. Otis Fine does a remarkable job of anchoring the ensemble as the thinking-man’s bartender. Richard Alpert, meanwhile, nails the film’s climax, encompassing everything you could hope for from a hard-nosed, eyepatch-wearing sheriff who can still handle a Winchester rifle. The emotional core of the film, however, is held by Joey Bicicchi and Dani Wilkin, the two star-crossed high school lovers who bear witness to the town’s tragedy. Caught in a whirlwind of horror and carnage, we see the massacre through their eyes, and it isn’t pretty.
The above-mentioned storm pertains to the horror element of the film, which will likely draw a large amount of viewers and they will not be disappointed. First off, the creature design is stellar. The makeup team created a lean, mean, savage superhuman with plenty of unique touchups and details that add a distinct element of character. They meet all the necessary criteria to be added to the long list of things you would not want to run into in a dark alley. Meanwhile, the title of the film really lives up to expectations with some outstanding gore. There’s enough stabbing, throat-cutting and general slaughter to keep any self-respecting horror fan glued to the screen.
It’s worth mentioning that much of the film’s success would not have been realized without its fabulous technical qualities. This film, which was made with a minuscule amount of money, looks, sounds and feels like a movie that should garner envy from any big-budget Hollywood producer. The cinematography, crafted by the young Chicago phenom David Wagenaar, is top notch. The film’s warm color palette help heighten the authentic western vibe, while Wagenaar’s staunch, high-contrast lighting during the massacre greatly elevates the level of terror. The film’s production design team successfully pulled off transforming suburban Chicago into rural Kansas (not an easy feat). Finally, the sound mix by Rob Davis adds a quality to the film that absolutely cannot be beaten.
Perhaps the greatest compliment one can give to “Blood on the Plain” is how well it works as a short film. Some may argue that the movie lacks a solid build-up. Yet, all in all, what more could you want for your twelve minutes? The film wastes not a second of its running time and delivers more scares, thrills and raw emotion than any other short that I’ve seen this year. The filmmakers wish to soon expand this film into a feature, and I can only hope beyond hope that it happens. When you see this short you will know what I mean, because, by the time the credits roll, the only thing you will want is more. You’ll be begging for it.
“Blood” is about to start its international festival run and is not yet available for streaming. However, you can go to the film’s website and can find all sorts of ways to see it. The DVD is on sale for ten dollars and is packed with all kinds of great extras. Or, if you’re as self-conscious about blind buys as I am, the film is also available for download in a stunning 2k (a quality higher than HD) transfer for only four dollars. Trust me, this film is worth your four dollars. Help support these phenomenal young indie filmmakers.
Below is the film’s official trailer and a link to their site: