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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DOUBLE DOSE of Indie Fun: psych thriller "DRAIN" and action "Hostile Ground'!

For this week's DOUBLE DOSE of short film awesomeness, we're covering two effective indies that feature impressive direction and cinematography on shoestring budgets.

Without further ado, let's get our DOUBLE DOSE going!

First off, we have "DRAIN" -- a short psychological thriller from YouTube user JamieDugganFilms. 

"DRAIN" is barely over two minutes in length, so it is nearly impossible to tell you anything about it without giving away spoilers, but suffice it to say that our migraine tortured protagonist owes money to someone not very nice.  This is the springboard for what is actually a quite effective bit of intensifying tension, followed by what might loosely be called a twist ending, though honestly it's not hard to guess what the outcome will be as soon as the pill popping begins.

The beauty of "DRAIN" is in the details.  The intro is creepy and effective.  The soundtrack is a  simple but atmospheric piano lurching from note to note.   We see close ups of a bloody bathroom drain, but rather than the blood dripping, it does the opposite: it slowly creeps away, recalled from whence it came. 

The acting, while certainly not perfect, it does the job.  The actors themselves are young, I'm guessing near the age of twenty, but that's not overly distracting because, first of all, they play their roles pretty well but also because there's no age limit on owing people money.
 
There are a number of truly spectacular shots as the main character awaits the arrival of the antagonist.   The car's headlights slashing through the curtains, and the protagonist resting on the couch -- it's all done very well.  The camera keep moving throughout each shot, which helps add a certain energy to the film. 

The migraine headache sequence is also pretty effective, with the scene fading in and out and the film jumping and lagging to accentuate the protagonist's misery.  This is a man on the edge to begin with, and we get that.   The whole headache angle never really enters the picture later on in the film either, so it feels unnecessary.  Cool effect, though.

The antagonist kicks open the front door, and the guns come out and nothing will ever be the same.
Sound generic?  Well, that's probably because it is, when you get right down to it.  It makes sense, it's all very cause and effect.  But what do you expect from a short that's 2 minutes long?  There's not a lot of room for nuances. 

"DRAIN" comes off as more of a test run than anything else -- a "do you think we can do that?" sort of thing, and the answer is undeniably yes.  Writer/director Jamie Duggan and actor Josiah Jirgens do a great job at creating and maintaining tension and delivering a story to the public.   The only problem is that to create an effective psychological thriller, you have to have the time to string the audience along.  It's impossible to cause the right kind of unease in two minutes.

I give "DRAIN" a 2 out of 5 score.  It does what it sets out to do, and manages to show off a few cool shots in the process.  On the negative side, there's just not a whole lot going on here, and the migraine thing feels tacked on.  That being said, I'm definitely interested in seeing more from JamieDugganFilms when they start tackling more elaborate productions.

Watch "DRAIN" right now!

Check out JamieDugganFilms on YouTube for more films!





Now then, then now: let's talk about our second short film for this week's DOUBLE DOSE: short action film "Hostile Ground" from Violent Visuals' writer/director/all around film guru Tom Reed and assistant director and writer Logan Currin. 

"Hostile Ground" is similar in some respects to "DRAIN" in that it's got some cool shots (quite a few, actually, thanks to its 10 minute length) and some great direction, but not a whole lot going on as far as story is concerned.  But storyline is not the strong point of most action films, so the question remains: does "Hostile Ground" deliver cool fight scenes and plenty of gunplay?

The answer to both questions is actually yes -- quite impressive for a film with such a miniscule budget. 

The prodution values on "Hostile Ground" are pretty astounding.  The credits sequence at the beginning is top notch, and could have provided the intro to a full length feature.  On the negative side, it's about as long as a full length film's credits, which takes an awful lot of time from the meager ten minutes of running time.

But once the film gets going, it's pretty much straight forward action.  We have a hitman hired to take out a dangerous killer in a bloody to-the-death confrontation.  There's a short phone conversation between the hitman and his boss, but apart from that, there really isn't any dialogue, which is merciful because the acting chops just are not up to the standard of the rest of the film.

This is essentially a well made student film, which means the actors are very young (late teens, I'm guessing), and therefore completely unbelievable in their roles.  There's nothing very dangerous looking about either men, but you can bypass your disbelief and just enjoy the ride.

And make no mistake, there's no shortage of good stuff to take a look at.  The tables are turned on the hitman by his prey, and suddenly there's a shootout -- an honest to God shootout in an indie short -- and then a hand to hand conflict (which doesn't make much sense, since the hitman had another gun in his coat -- why not just shoot and kill and be done with it?) that is surprisingly well choreographed. 

In a lot of independent films, all the punches and kicks look staged, and you can easily see where they pulled the punch to prevent hurting the actors.  Not so here.  Some of those punches are delivered so well by the director that they honestly look painful.

All the fighting and the struggles are entertaining, but weird occurrences plague the film from start to finish.  If you're engaged in a shootout, do you really text for backup?  I could see calling -- it's hands free -- but texting?  Also, if you've gotten your ass kicked and you finally get the upper hand, why on earth would you turn your back on your opponent, as apparently hurt as they might be? 

That being said, there's a lot to like about "Hostile Ground".  It's ambitious, well staged, and there's not much talking so the acting is something of a non-issue. 

Like "DRAIN", the makers of "Hostile Ground" knew what they were making and what people expect, and they actually managed to deliver the goods.  It's quite an impressive feat, and I will definitely be checking out more of Violent Visuals' works in the future.

I give "Hostile Ground" a 2.5 out of 5 score.  It knows what it's about and is unapologetic about that fact.  In ten short minutes, you get fancy transitions, crisp shots and excellent direction, a shoot out and hand-to-hand combat scene and plenty of blood. 

They could definitely succeed with a feature length genre film.  I can't wait to see it.





Watch "Hostile Ground" right now!


Check out Violent Visuals' Facebook page and YouTube page here!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!