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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

“Mortal Kombat: Legacy” Web Series

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Does everybody remember when, almost a year ago, a ballsy filmmaker without a lot to his credit, assembled a cast and crew from his own friends and made a short film entitled “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth.” It was a gritty, high-profile pitch for Hollywood to allow the director to reboot the Mortal Kombat video game series into a new franchise of films for the modern film climate. The short film was hugely popular and became and overnight sensation. People really liked the idea of blending the realistic and fantastical into one film concept and there was a large outcry for the potential feature to be made.

Well, it hasn’t happened yet. In recent news, however, the “Rebirth” concept did get some level of funding; at least enough for a web series that has just premiered its first episode. “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” appears to mostly follow the police duo of Sonya Blade and Jax as they fight crime and (one can only guess they will, anyway) bite off more than they can chew. Only a few known MK characters have made appearances so far, but many are sure to follow. The logic here is that if the web series is able to garner enough support, the movie could become a reality.

I was a big fan of the short film when it was released, last year. However, this new web series is definitely not clutching my interest. Episode 1 feels like nothing more than the cheesiest of cop shows. Visually, it doesn’t look half as intriguing as its predecessor. It’s going to take a lot for me to stick this one out in hopes of a decent feature film.

If anyone else wants to give it a chance, they can watch the first episode, below:

“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:

Read more…