Posts Tagged ‘creatures’

“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

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:


“Monsters” Review

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A few months ago, I had commented that the visual effects artists who designed “Skyline” weren’t qualified to make a great movie. However, I have displayed no end of admiration and anticipation for Gareth Edwards’ low-budget creature-feature “Monsters.” For the longest time, I never realized the hypocrisy I used in making that distinction or the double standard that I set. Now, I realize, that there is no double standard.

“Monsters” is set in the near future, in which a probe coming back from the edges of the solar system crashed and infected much of Central America with alien organisms. These enormous octopi-like creatures now thrive in what’s known as the “infected zone,” a place where people and it seems a lot of military equipment have trouble surviving. Two Americans, a photographer and his boss’s daughter, must travel through that zone in order to get back to America.

This movie is a mess, straight up. It has an interesting concept and I respect the fact that it was attempted on such a small budget, but simply put, it doesn’t pull it off. The film DRAGS. My God, does it drag like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m really not sure if there was a point in film in which I was genuinely frightened, or even thrilled. The scenes in which people actually are put in mortal danger are stifled by a dialogue or action soon beforehand explaining how the monsters “really aren’t that bad.”

All the main ingredients of the film, such as acting, directing and writing, are all subpar, at best. Edwards really doesn’t have much of a hand at working with his performers. They wander around, meandering through their boring and mostly meaningless dialogue, trying to create some sort of emotional (or any kind at all, really) link to the audience. Had their been said link, the viewer might not be simply hanging on for some decent monster action and therefore be let down. Instead, we are just as bored by these people as we are by their quest through the incredibly dangerous “INFECTED ZONE,” which should have been more accurately titled, “THE ZONE IN WHICH THE CHANCES OF RUNNING INTO SOME TROUBLE INCREASE BY ABOUT 5 TO 10 PERCENT.”

Another quick note to Edwards in regards to his writing: if you want to try and work a message into your film, try to be a little more tact about it. The film has an obvious metaphorical subplot the relates to the current immigration issue in North America. I won’t go into too many details, but in its application, this facet of the film could have been touched on with a bit more subtlety. I’ve always believed that the softer a director goes about planting his bomb, the bigger a crater it will leave. Edwards couldn’t have worked more loudly if he tried.

Finally, we get to the portion of the film which should have been stellar, no doubt, and that is the special effects. Yes, they are decent, and it is quite a feat that Edwards created the visuals all from his own resources and skills. And yet, when you remove that notion from the equation, the quality really does start to decline. When you look at one of the animated tanks strolling down a road, you think to yourself, “Wow, he did a really good job with that animation.” However, a few moments later, you move on and think, “Even though he did a really good job with that animation, it’s pretty goddamn obvious that it’s not a real tank,” and suddenly, the overall credibility of the film starts to decline.

I cannot say that this was not an admirable attempt at a film, working such a great concept into an incredibly low-budget. Yet, I just cannot bring myself to applaud this movie on any aspect of it. Aside from the above-mentioned fare, the production quality was pretty sad as well. So many shots, day or night, were horribly underlit, mostly because they’re not lit at all. This approach causes nearly all of the night photography to be grainy and indiscernible. In a documentary-style approach, this might work, but it is not, it’s simply low-budget. And as a film student, I hear it said too many times than I can count that “If I had millions of dollars, I could make that film so much better.” Well, I think that even working with this film’s minuscule budget, a number of my friends still could have made a better film.

In the end, what we’re left with is less a film than it is Gareth Edwards’ VFX demo reel. It really does work better as a trailer, for then he can work in all of the pretty works of animating and compositing in short clips of 1 to 2 seconds, and then not have to worry about production, acting, direction, writing, cinematography or any of the other aspects of this film that are going to have to stand the test of time and ultimately….will not.

GRADES:           C-           * 1/2 / * * * * *           3.4 / 10.0