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“Blood on the Plain” Review

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

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:

Blood on the Plain’s Official Site

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New “Blood on the Plain” Trailer and Poster

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a little film that I have been following closely over the past year. As some of you may recall, I made a few posts about the short as it was in the midst of production, and since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds. Director Mac Eldridge leads a stellar cast and crew, made up of dozens of rising stars in the Chicago film scene. Here they have crafted a visceral and entertaining short film that is about to take the world by storm.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the film, as stated by the film’s website:

Part western, part horror, “Blood on the Plain” is a self-aware pulp exploration of a small town in the wake of tragedy. Following a savage massacre at the Wadsworth High School homecoming dance, the townspeople take up arms and under the guidance of four seasoned trackers, set out in search of justice. Those who survive will be forced to square off with the assailants; a breed of man never before seen and born under a previous generation’s offense.

All in all, the concept is a virtual cross between “No Country for Old Men” and “Predator.” If you’re wondering how those two films could mesh, I believe that’s evident of the stark originality of this piece. Right now, the film exists as a short narrative that focuses on the massacre and the events that lead up to it. However, the film is now gaining a lot of traction in different film communities and is about to begin its international festival tour. From there, it will hopefully gain enough support to become to the full feature it deserves to be.

Everything I say about this exciting project could not do enough justice as the trailer below. I must warn that were it viewed by the MPAA, this preview would certainly carry a red band rating. It contains some footage of the film’s fantastic make-up and special effects which can get a little gory at moments. Yet, considering the movies I have mentioned above, that shouldn’t be unwelcome or a surprise.

Check out the trailer, along with photos, cast and crew biographies, and behind the scenes footage, at the link, below:

“BLOOD ON THE PLAIN” TRAILER AND WEBSITE!

My “Separation of Church and State” Montage

As I said, earlier in the year, I planned on including more than just commentary on this site. I also intend to feature content that I have created or worked on as a filmmaker, as well. I had posted the production stills and trailer for a short film that I had gotten the chance to work on in late winter, titled “Blood on the Plain.” Production of that film will be resuming soon and there will surely be some phenomenal work to be advertised. Recently, I also gripped on a short film titled “A Tribal El Community.” It’s the first student film ever to be sanctioned to shoot on the Chicago Transit Authority’s train system. Hopefully I will have some photos from that production, soon, as well.

On top of lighting work, I have also dabbled in editing from time to time. I thought I would share a montage that I made for my Editing Styles and Techniques class earlier this year. The topic of my project was the separation of church and state, an issue that I believe is burning our country alive. As some of my readers know, I am an athiest (actually borderline agnostic). While I respect other people’s decision to believe in religion, I prefer it be kept the hell away from me. Therefore, it kills me to see that our country, founded on religious freedom, has become so heavily tied in with Christian ideals and beliefs, both morally and politically.

Quite frankly, this issue is, for me, the epicenter of 90% of what’s wrong with this country. It’s why women may have to fear dying from back alley abortions. It’s why our children are growing up ignorant enough to believe that the world was created in seven days. It’s why millions of people remained plagued with horrible, debilitating illness (because God says we’re not allowed to find a cure for them). It’s why gay people cannot find there place as equal members of society (which they are; any debate on this issue is frivolous) and why humans may never find an ultimate solution to global warming. In other words, the Christian grasp of this country is what is preventing our civilization from moving forward.

Anyway, enough of my preaching. Let’s move on to the montage. This is, by standards, a found footage montage, meaning that it is assembled from dozens of different sources. Those who listen carefully will be able to tell immediately what musical choice I made for the piece. I’ve also used elements from perhaps my favorite feature documentary, “Jesus Camp,” which, to this day, remains the scariest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. The rest is assembled from various sources and websites. Hope everyone enjoys it and perhaps it might spark some debate.

“Blood on the Plain” Teaser

March 20, 2011 Leave a comment

As promised a few days ago, here is the first trailer for “Blood on the Plain.” The film is a contemporary horror-western taking place in a small Kansas town. A savage tribe of humanoid creatures emerges from underground caves to seek revenge on the town by murdering their children. After the homecoming dance is massacred, the school burned to the ground, the remaining townspeople must band together and gain retribution for these acts. They enlist the help of four hardened trackers to bring the mysterious killers to justice and return order to their town.

I had a lot of fun working on this project, even if I was out in the freezing cold for much of the day. However, the production is far from over and a lot still has to be done. In the meantime enjoy this preview of what’s to come, and then check out the production photos posted that I posted a few days ago, if you haven’t yet.

“Blood on the Plain” Production Stills

March 18, 2011 Leave a comment

As I said, I do intend to have more of a production aspect to this blog. I love reviewing movies and hope to have a career in the commentary process, but working on the films themselves is also quite a passion of mine. Recently, I’ve been doing grip work on a student short destined to take off and potentially be turned into a feature. It’s a contemporary horror/western that takes place in a small Kansas town. A tribe of nomadic creatures, thought to have died out, emerge from their caves to wreak revenge on a small town by slaughtering the high school homecoming.

The film is a joint effort between Water Cooler Productions, Black Apple Media and Dynamite Productions. The director is Mac Eldridge who is also producing, along with Aric Jackson and Kevin McGrail. The director of photography is David Wagenaar, the editor is Tom Dean and the production designer is Caitlin Laingen. The film is being shot on the RED One Camera.

Check out more stills after the cut:

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