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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

M.V.B. Films' "A Compelled Force" an Intense Drama

"A COMPELLED FORCE" (2011)
Length: 7:51
Company:  M.V.B. Films Inc.
Website: Official

* The credits were not entirely clear in regards to who plays who, so I apologize in advance if I've assumed wrong.

COPING WITH THE PAST


David (Bernard Long) searches the Internet for some way to save his ailing father (Ethan Casseus), who lies on his deathbed.  Unfortunately, there is no quick fix scenario.  As we all discover when we reach the age where our parents are on their way out, there is really nothing left to do but sit with them and wait for the inevitable moment to come.

But there's a deeper issue at stake here: David's childhood is marred by horrible memories of his father's physical and mental abuse.  He struggles to cope with the horror of being a battered child and the fact that he still feels love for a man perhaps incapable of returning it. 

It's a complicated emotional web to depict in an entirely visual medium.   "A Compelled Force" -- written and directed by Award Winning Moesha Bean of M.V.B. Films -- has a lot to do in its incredibly brief running time.

So let's hit the ground running, shall we?



 
BIG BRAINS, LOW BUDGET

Bean's "A Compelled Force" rides on its strong, professional presentation.  Bean clearly knows her way around a camera, and she is able to take complicated emotions and present them visually, sometimes to incredible effect.  The opening credits and the shots of David Googling are handled masterfully. 

The brief scenes of poor young David (played by an incredibly effective Lee Strong) being terrorized by his father are heartbreaking.  I literally felt my stomach in my throat.  And the thing is, Bean knows enough not to show EXACTLY what is going on.  It's suggested, and Casseus' strong performance as the abusive father hits the horrific notes right on the head.  It's powerful stuff, and it lasts just as long as it should -- it's not too long, or so short that you don't get the point. 

HIGH POINTS

The soundtrack, provided by Roger Subirana, is absolutely fantastic.  Those cellos in the opening credits lay out the gravity of what we are about to see.  I would love to hear more of Subirana's work.  As a composer myself, I really respect what he's accomplished here.  His score definitely helps the film succeed.


In a lot of low budget films, the acting is the worst aspect of a production.  Here, most of the actors do respectably well.  I've already mentioned Casseus and Strong, but I'd also like to point out LaKesha Hobdy as the visiting nurse -- she is credible and seems comfortable in her role.  The expression on her face when she brings David's father a very important note is pitch perfect.  I'd like to see what she could do with a lead role.

And speaking of lead roles, that brings us to our next section.

TROUBLED POINTS

As powerful as "A Compelled Force" is, there are a few problems that detract from the overall experience.  First of all, Long's performance as David is far too understated.  As it is, it's hard for me to buy the twist at the finale.  Without seeing a strong emotional performance or some kind of foreshadowing to hint at what's to come, the final shot doesn't provide the catharsis I know Bean wanted. 

I must admit there was also some confusion regarding the religious text at the end of the film.  In a strange way, it seemed to back up David's final decision, that somehow what he does is warranted, and that bugged me a little.  I can't go into much more detail than that because if I did, I'd spoil the film, and trust me, you want to see this one for yourself.

 
CONCLUSION

"A Compelled Force" is a solid drama -- it's billed as a thriller on YouTube, but honestly there are no thrills.  It's a serious and thoughtful example of what an effective team of low budget filmmakers can make when they put their heart and soul into what they're doing.

I'm also sad to say that this film is based on a true story, and as someone who understands what this sort of thing entails, my heart goes out to Bean and the others. 

You'll know what I mean after you watch it.

Overall Scores:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The story unfolds quickly, but there's a surprising depth to the events that take place, and clearly a lot of heart went into the writing of this film.  I appreciated that.  The religious text at the end confused me, and without more foreshadowing, I couldn't quite buy David's decision, but overall, Bean did a good job writing this one.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Camera placement was impeccable here, and every scene unfolds before the camera exactly how Bean wants it to.  There's a definite sense of experiencing the director's vision, and that's always exciting whether it's big or low budget.
Editing: 5 / 5.  Brilliant editing, particularly during the abuse scene.  I would not be surprised if tears were shed as a result of the combination of soundtrack, editing, direction and the look of sheer terror on Strong's face.  It's a powerful combination.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  The music kept coming throughout the film, and it's a pretty exciting score.  It's never intrusive, but it does a nice commentary on what we see.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Long's performance as David is too understated, and ultimately unbelievable.  Everyone else put on a respectable show. 

Final Grade: 3.8.  Moesha Bean's "A Compelled Force" is a strong, visually appealing emotional drama that will get you thinking AND feeling.  I appreciated its frank and stylized approach, and look forward to seeing more on Bean's films soon!

To watch the full length film, click hereGet in touch with M.V.B. Films and check out their official youTube page, Facebook page, and Twitter!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Roadkill" -- Whacked Out Fun in Spine Chillers Episode 2

"ROADKILL"
Length:  16:07
Company:  Tres Hombres Productions
Website:  Official Website

A WHOLE LOT TO PROVE

Last week, I reviewed "Sorry I Couldn't Make It" -- the first episode of the new Spine Chillers web series -- and found it to be an extremely flawed piece of work, not at all suitable for a legitimate horror series.  Will episode number two, "Roadkill", be more of the same or will it actually chill some spines?

No time like the present, friends . . .

THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THEY USED TO

"Roadkill" follows Steve (Robert J. Gordinier), long suffering employee of Critter Catchers -- a company that gets rid of those irritating pests that sneak into your house and kill your pets.  Steve's boss, John (played with just a pinch of well placed arrogance by Christopher Dinnan), tells him to head out to the country and check on a Critter Catchers trap that has been torn apart. 

This episode is written and directed by Paul Harris, hombre numero dos of Tres Hombres Productions.  He brings a much needed breath of fresh air to the series after hombre numero uno, indie film writer/director Josh Becker, left me cold in the first installment.  Harris brings some directing style to the table, bringing in some frankly audacious shots coming from a project so obviously low budget.  There are "aside" shots, not unlike the whacky black and white and negative shots in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses.  There are slow zooms on display that instantly bring a little bit of retro charm to the film.


It's little touches like these that help make a movie more interesting to watch, particularly when dealing with such familiar territory, story-wise.

"Roadkill" is based on a true story -- one I'd like I hear, frankly -- though you'd never know it by the presentation of the material.  Harris' direction, the dialogue and particulary Carol Ilku as Ms. Barton (also known as the Redneck Lady -- to me, anyway) are all gleefully irreverent, and somehow it all works its way into an oddball stew that is enjoyable for the sixteen minutes of running time.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

There are little sprinkles of retro here and there in "Roadkill".  One of the most noticeable is the off the wall soundtrack.  I know that Joseph LoDuca provided some music, but the credits attribute the original score to Gino Minchelle.  Whoever actually wrote the music, they hit it out of the park.  It's a whacky, pseudo disco soundtrack somewhat reminiscent of a Lucio Fulci flick.  The presentation of the monster reminds me of Fulci as well, as Harris throws this beast IN YOUR FACE, regardless of how ridiculously fake it might look.  Take it or leave it, he seems to be saying. 

At face value, the monster (named "Sawtooth" in the credits, for rather obvious reasons) looks like something that a stoned Jim Henson would have come up with, and it is never, ever scary by any means, but . . . it took some guts to put this thing on camera, or to even suppose that it could be done right with such a limited budget. 

And speaking of Sawtooth, his look made me draw inevitable conclusions to Critters

In other words, you've seen it all before.  That fact could've killed this film, but fortunately . . .

SAWTOOTH TAKES ONE FOR THE TEAM

"Roadkill" doesn't take itself seriously, not for a moment, and its gleeful, gutsy approach to otherwise ludicrous material keeps its head above water.  The acting is all around head and shoulders better than the first Spine Chillers episode -- everyone is credible here.

The only unbelievable moment of the story is that, in my opinion, a point blank gunshot to the face should have done more damage.  In addition, some of the night shots toward the end of the picture were just too dark to see right in, and the red eyes on the side of the road was somewhat uninspired.

CONCLUSION

So what's the final word on "Roadkill"?  Well, it shows a production company starting to get its act together.  After the disappointing "Sorry I Couldn't Make It", "Roadkill" is a surprisingly enjoyable romp of a film that never takes itself seriously, and frankly, it doesn't give a damn.

There's something fun to be had in the madness of this film. 

Now then, does it belong on a web series named Spine Chillers?  Not really.  It's not scary, it's not really horror.  It is based on a true story, but doesn't go for a documentarian or "realistic" presentation of the material, so the whole "Oh God, this really HAPPENED?!" thing doesn't affect me much.

That being said, I will watch this one again with the family.  And be sure to watch through the credits.  There is a laugh out loud moment when Sawtooth finally strikes that has to be seen to be believed.
 
Overall Scores:

Writing: 2 / 5.  The story doesn't cover much ground, and the opening monologue that Steven's listening to on the radio strikes me as too on-the-nose.  The screenplay gets characters from point A to point B, and that's about it.
Directing: 3 / 5.  I liked how writer/director Paul Harris keeps the camera moving and makes shots that are interesting enough to hold our attention.  The dark scenes at the end are hard to see, which is a shame because I couldn't help but think I was missing out on what would otherwise have been a pretty cool shot.  Some of the stuff he attempts here -- particularly when Steve discovers the wrecked trap -- is pretty out there, but he delivers a solid and well played show.  He lets the camera linger over Sawtooth, even when perhaps it shouldn't, but I liked how he is basically saying, "Take it or leave it."  The viewer can do with these images what he or she will.
Editing: 3 / 5.  Christopher Dinnan's editing makes the movie flow well, and he helps Harris deliver on those audacious shots I spoke of earlier.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  The music was weird, but it worked because of its perhaps unintentional references to older horror movies.  Did LoDuca play a part in the soundtrack?  I don't know, but the music definitely helped lift "Roadkill" overall.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Christopher Dinnan is completely believable as John, the boss who only cares about business.  Steve's played by Robert J. Gardinier, who I've never seen before, but he puts on a pretty good show.  He could've been more freaked out in my opinion during the car battle, but that's just me being picky.  Carol Ilku steals the show with her ridiculous and funny bit part.  Sawtooth is fairly emotive, an impressive feat considering the limited budget.

Final Grade: 3.  "Roadkill" is not a bad second episode.  It's by far the most enjoyable of the series, and definitely the most ambitious.  The vibe of the film and the many risks that Paul Harris takes over the course of the film to deliver something of worth ultimately pay off in a funny, Critters-Lite film.  I look forward to seeing the next episode!

To watch the full length film and get in touch with Tres Hombres, check out their official website and YouTube channel!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Tick Tock" a Stylish Experimental Short Film

"TICK TOCK"
Length: 4:50
Company: N/A
Website: Ien Chi's Official Site

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

As the winner of Best Picture and Best Director awards at Campus MovieFest 2011, and one of the few short films to actually be distributed and televised nationally, "Tick Tock" has a lot to live up to. 

Let's not beat around the bush, friends.  Is "Tick Tock" worth the praise?

Check it out below!

PLOT BREAKDOWN

Emit (Morgan Ayres) has problems.  He's having trouble in class, he just broke up with his girlfriend -- oh, and there's one other thing.  He's just realized that the aspirin he thought he was taking at a friend's house was actually morphine, and that the fatal overdose will hit him in approximately five minutes.

Emerging indie writer/director Ien Chi sets up his story within seconds, and he challenges the audience to step into Emit's shoes for a minute:

You've got five minutes to live.

What do you do?

Tick tock.




BACK TO THE FUTURE

The first shot in "Tick Tock", after the black and white credits, is a clock ticking backward.  It's a nice setup, and it is the first in a series of unsettling shots that will get you a little off kilter.

The entire film is a single take, a challenging proposition for any filmmaker, but particularly when you consider that it is then delivered to the audience in reverse.  You literally see the end credits first, then the final scenes, and then on and on, backward, until you finally discover what is going on.

The reverse shot might seem like a gimmick, something that a lazy filmmaker did to hide the fact that his story is pedestrian, but nothing could be more from the truth.  It's clear by the fluidity of camera movement that Chi is deliberately using this technique as a stylistic device.  From the beginning, the camerawork is fluid , and bizarrely, it doesn't feel backward.  It's as though the camera is moving with forward motion, while everything taking place on screen runs backward.

The reverse technique also lends the film a surreal, dream-like atmosphere that increases the longer you watch.  At first, Emit's outbursts seem over the top -- and why is he calling his parents while he's running?

Of course, since we're in reverse, the dialogue is unintelligible, and Chi smartly muffles the voices of his actors -- we hear them as though from down a long hallway, which only helps to position the film as a dream sequence, half nightmare, half inspirational.  This is emphasized by the film's usage of black and white for Emit's depression -- his lingering on the physical, stupid stuff in life -- and vibrant color when he's trying to make things right.

ACTING A LITTLE BACKWARD

It's surprising to see how much emotion the actors are capable of displaying, even backward.  The running scene in particular gets to me.  I don't know if this was complicated or just a random thing that turned out well, but Emit looks out of control and even panicky at different points during his run, as though his body is out of control and he suddenly realizes that everything in his life is fleeing from him, just as he is running backwards to the source of the problem. 

Buddy (played by a smirky Maurice Winsell) is a little unbelievable -- he delivers his role too "in your face".  Subtlety would have worked.  I get that he's amused, but does he have to borderline cackle behind Emit's back? 

Rena, Emit's girlfriend, is played by Valee Gallant.  She has a very short role, and most of her facial expressions are believable.  Without hearing real dialogue, I can't say for sure, but put it this way: I believed her character for the purposes of "Tick Tock".


LOGIC, GET IN THE BACKSEAT

Since when does overdosing on morphine give you five minutes to live?  Why would Emit do what he does rather than call 9-1-1, for instance?   Why does Buddy cause trouble?

There are no answers for any of these questions, mainly more than likely because if anything happened differently, it would destroy the whole point of the story.  There's a theme at work here, and it's not particularly subtle.  The Steve Jobs quote tacked on at the end (the beginning?) drives the point home, in case you were sleepwalking through the rest of the picture.

CONCLUSION

"Tick Tock" is a trick film.  It's intention is to make you think about your life, and what's important, and it does it incredibly well, considering the relatively poor picture quality and audio.  At first, I was confused, and followed the story a little in disbelief, but there was some element about it, the direction, maybe, that made me sense there was something more about this picture, something I had to see.

I'm glad I stuck around, because "Tick Tock" is one of the better experimental short films I've seen.

Overall Scores:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The dialogue, delivered in subtitles, is a bit on the nose, and there's not a whole lot going on, plot wise.  The film's a one trick pony, but the one trick it delivers, it does very well.  It's held back somewhat by a very obvious theme that culminates in an equally on the nose quote from Steve Jobs.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  The direction seemed to play forward while the action on screen played backward, if that makes any sense -- the director's style remains intact, and it's a nice anchor in the midst of the strangeness of living in reverse.  Filming it all in one take gave the movie an immediacy it desperately needed. 
Editing: 2 / 5.  There wasn't much editing needed, aside from some Windows Movie Maker magic.  By and large, the film is one take, so we pretty much just follow Emit from location to location. 
Sound/Music: 2.5 / 5.  "Anthem" by Emancipator was a nice, introspective tune that played in the background.  The sound itself was muddled and low in the mix -- once again, intentional, but it was boring to the ears.  Thankfully, the visuals onscreen were strong and imaginative enough to hold my interest.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  The acting in the film was limited due to the nature of filming in reverse, but a surprising amount of emotion worked from actor to actor.  Buddy (Maurice Winsell) was a little over the top and Rena (Valee Gallant) does what she has to.

Final Grade: 2.7 / 5.  

To watch the full length film and get in touch with Ien Chi, check out his official website.  If you'd like to hear more music from Emancipator (and who wouldn't?) then check them out here!

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Sorry I Couldn't Make It" a Bad Start For New Spine Chillers Web Series

"SORRY I COULDN'T MAKE IT"
Length: 15:05
Company:  Tres Hombres Productions
Website:  Official Website

AN EXQUISITE PEDIGREE


Writer/director Josh Becker got his start in the entertainment business with the original Evil Dead -- one of the most influential and respected horror films of its type.  Becker went on to direct episodes of TV series such as Xena: Warrior Princess and the TV movie Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur.  His original output was professional and well written in equal measure, including such experimental fare as the one-shot heist-gone-wrong picture, Running Time, the exploitation Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except . . . and the mainstream Lunatics: A Love Story.

I have followed Becker's career since I was little, so I was a fan going in to his new horror web series, Spine Chillers.  With Becker's name (along with Chris Dinnan, writer/director of Zeitgest and Paul Harris, the two other "hombres" that make up their production company) attached to the series, and his writing and directing the first episode, "Sorry I Couldn't Make It", I looked forward to seeing, finally, the episodes that would make up a new direction for the indie director.

With Joseph LoDuca composing original music and the promise of Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Spider Man) in a future episode, I sat down and prepared myself to see something truly special.

Does this first episode live up to the title Spine Chillers?  Let's take a look and find out.

A BUM, HIS GIRL AND HIS CONQUESTS

When we first meet Chad (Chris Dinnan), he's a bearded slacker arguing with his girlfriend Beth (Carol Ilku), ranting about how he doesn't like her friend, and she yells back at him that she doesn't like his friends either.  Their ludicrous fight escalates and Beth decides she's leaving Chad. 

Sitting alone in his house, Beth having been gone for approximately 30 seconds, Chad digs out his "old girlfriends" phone book (people actually have those?) and looks for one to bang.  He finds one: Leigh Henderson.  He calls her and sets up a date at a bar.

That's the set up of "Sorry I Couldn't Make It". 

I have to admit that at this point, I was a little confused.  Wasn't this supposed to be a scary story?  Or at least have some supernatural elements, like Amazing Stories or Twilight Zone

If I tell you much more, then I'll spoil the twist at the end, but I'll be honest with you, the film itself spoils that twist as soon as Beth returns home, declares she's moving back in, and reveals that she knows something about Leigh that Chad doesn't -- something that will shake him to his very core.

The thing is, there is literally no foreshadowing of this big reveal.  As a matter of fact, there is not a single moment of tension in the entire film that would suggest that anything of significance is happening.  And the story is essentially a half twist on an old folk tale (once again, if I tell you which one, it will spoil it for you). 

NUTS AND BOLTS

Josh Becker is a solid writer and director.  You can check out his personal website and read any number of his screenplays, and they are thoughtful and exciting, every single last one.

That's why I cannot believe he wrote this short film.  It clocks in at a little over fifteen minutes, nothing really happens, there is no tension, and I actually caught myself checking to see how much longer it was. 

The entire film is handheld and shaky, which works to the advantage of some films, but here, in what is essentially a quiet drama, it's distracting. 

And the soundtrack is a headscratcher.  Joseph LoDuca is an established film composer, working with big, big names in the film industry, but here, his work is noisy and overly extravagant for the purposes of the flick.  There's nothing scary going on during this film, but the music attempts to inject some mood.  It doesn't work.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

Becker's film does show an emphasis on dialogue, which many short films tend to gloss over.  The story is told through the people, which is a refreshing angle.  The acting in the picture is not up to carrying the film, but like I said, it's an interesting flavor.

Another thing I liked was the fact that the characters GOT OUT AND ABOUT.   Chad hits the bar and searches the cemetery as well as hangs out in his house.  It opens up the picture quite a bit. 

CONCLUSION

Given the sort of quality films Becker has released in the past, including the musical If I Only Had a Hammer and the Sci-Fi original Alien Apocalypse, I expected far better in this first episode of new web series Spine Chillers.  It's fair to say that this IS the first episode, and that they should improve over time as this new format becomes more regular for the individual players.  Each of the members of Tres Hombres will be fronting the camera for one of the first three episodes.

I'm curious to see what the following episodes will be like, but I must admit that the wind has bled from my sails somewhat by this disappointing first entry.


Overall Scores:

Writing: 1 / 5.  Josh Becker is an excellent screenwriter, but the entire story of "Sorry I Couldn't Make It" is about as cliche and pointless as it gets.  I get that Chad is in a troubled relationship, but really?  And where is the set up for the "horror" angle?  Leigh was in and out of mental institutions, yeah, but there was no way to connect the dots.  The big reveal felt random, rather than a story point that was going somewhere.
Directing: 2 / 5.  The handheld camera was distracting.  And what was with the point of view shot watching Beth driving up and then coming into the house?  It made me think that there was someone or something watching her, but there wasn't.  It was a shot that, once again, felt random.
Editing: 3 / 5.  The editing kept the film moving just fast enough that I didn't hit the Stop button. 
Sound/Music: 2 / 5.  Joseph LoDuca tried, but it felt like the Tres Hombres told him to write a scary sounding song, and neglected to mention that there weren't any real scares in the picture.  The audio in the bar scene is booming and a bit hard on the ears.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  It could've been worse, but it could've been a whole lot better, too.  Chad does a lot of talking in the beginning of the film, most of it to himself, but Chris Dinnan does the job.  Carol Ilku plays both Beth and the voice of Leigh Henderson on the phone.  She does her best with what she's given, but the big reveal at the end is dry, and there's not much she can do about it.

Final Grade: 2.1 / 5.  "Sorry I Couldn't Make It" is not what I expected from a debut episode for a web series named Spine Chillers.  I was disappointed, but I know for a fact that Becker is capable of so much more, so my eyes and ears are open for his next entry.

To watch the full length episode of Spine Chillers -- and additional episodes, too -- check out their official YouTube page!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Horror Short "The Quiet" Delivers Stunning Visuals and Tension By The Boatload

"THE QUIET"
Length: 21:14
Company: I'm With Them Productions
Website: Official Site


"VULNERABLE FEMALE"

Writer/director Lee Matthews and producer Rachael Groom of I'm With Them Productions have scored artistic successes with such short films as celebrated Award winning "Shrove Tuesday" and "3:00 AM".  Their latest, "The Quiet", is the final film in what is being called the "Vulnerable Female" horror trilogy.  Does it live up to the hype of the stellar production values and sheer freak out of their previous work?

Let's check it out, shall we?

BEAUTY IN SIMPLICITY

"The Quiet" continues the simple story, complex delivery tradition of the first two "Vulnerable Female" shorts.  It's a story told as long as time itself, not unlike an effective little campfire chiller, or a bogeyman tale a parent cooks up to rein in their headstrong child.  The beauty of "The Quiet" is in its simplicity and down to earth delivery.

As the film opens, we are introduced to Alice (played effectively by young Jenni-Lea Finch) -- a deaf, bullied high schooler trapped in a school bus, surrounded on all sides by her mean spirited peers.  We learn so much about Alice in these opening moments, and it's all conveyed without a word.  The sound used to convey her deafness is effective and not annoying at all.  In fact, it draws us into her world. 

This sequence is probably one of the most effective in the film.  With tight, close shots of Alice, her iPhone, her bullies, and the text messages, we are drawn to her.  We make a connection with her immediately.  She's the anchor for the rest of the film, and thankfully Finch, despite her character being somewhat one dimensional, can actually act, too, despite her young age.

Her normal daily routine is to ride the bus to a predetermined spot, and then get off and wait for her mother to pick her up by car.  All is well, right?  It's just another day in the life.

Sadly, not so much.  This is a horror movie, so things go wrong very quickly.  She forgets her iPhone on the bus.  Her mother never arrives to pick her up.  Alice takes a walk, and a menacing stranger begins to stalk her. 

NO SHORTAGE OF TIME

In previous reviews, I've mentioned that there just isn't much time in a short film to deliver suspense because, by definition, you have to be able to drag things out to provide a palpable sense of dread for the viewer.  "3:00 AM" suffered from this, and it seems like I'm With Them Productions has expanded the formula for their horror films and done so perfectly.  While the film is three times as long as "3:00 AM", you never once feel the time pass by.

Lee Matthews once again handles triple duty.  He writes (adapted from a story by Alison Cochran), directs and edits, and the result is nothing short of amazing.  Often times, the director has to work with an editor, but when the director is able to do the editing himself, he can cut and paste his scenes down to the finest second.

The result is a lean, mean horror package reminiscent in some ways of stalk and slash flicks like Alexander Aja's High Tension, Greg McLean's Wolf Creek and Steven Mena's Malevolence.  Matthews and Groom wisely do away with the "idiotic characters stuffed into the storyline just to be unceremoniously murdered graphically five minutes later" trope, and stick to what really works in these kinds of pictures: watching someone sympathetic be stalked by a ruthless and sinister force. 

CONFLICT, CONFLICT, CONFLICT . . .

"Force" is an apt word for the stalker in "The Quiet".  Alice is a young girl, maybe a freshman in high school, if that, and she's petite and pretty for her age.  I felt a knot in my stomach watching her flee her attacker, dodging in and out of abandoned buildings and hiding places in the woods.   In many cases, I would complain about the lack of genuine conflict -- yes, Alice is being chased, and she is fleeing, but there's little she can do about her situation.

That being said, the lack of a two way conflict turns out to be one of the biggest strengths of "The Quiet" in my opinion: you can believe this is really happening.  It ceases to be a movie after a while, in the best moments, and you are honestly in the dirt with Alice, knowing honestly that there's no way she'll ever win against this human monster, who we know mostly through shots of his grimy shoes and worn blue jeans.
 
I can't help but wonder if choosing the name Alice was intentionally referencing the Friday the 13th film series.  The protagonist of the first film's name was Alice, for those who don't know, and she was also a redhead, and in the beginning of Friday the 13th Part II, she was stalked by  Jason Voorhees, also clad in blue jeans and dirty shoes.

Even if it's unintentional, it's a fun way to place "The Quiet" in a long and triumphant tradition of stalker films.

I AM FREAKING OUT OVER HERE

"The Quiet" takes everything that worked in "3:00 AM" and amps it to eleven.  We have absolutely gorgeous scenery, once again capturing a green loneliness that delivers a great vibe to an otherwise straight forward horror picture.   I simply cannot get over the expert artistry on display here -- the wide shot at 12:36 of the sunset is just breathtaking.  Add to the arresting image some tension that bubbles over and a few effective chase sequences (love the water bottle stomp shot, by the way), and you have a well designed, professionally shot and completely enjoyed short stalker flick.

The soundtrack is a big deal, also.  "Tarmac" by Beth Fouracre is pitch perfect for the mood of "The Quiet", and I actually watched the end credits twice just to hear it again.   All the sound is professionally synched to the images onscreen and the audio is mixed properly so you can hear everything you need to hear. 

NOBODY'S PERFECT . . .


"The Quiet" rocked my world, but it's not without its faults.   First of all, Finch's performance is rock
solid at first, but her expression remains startlingly the same throughout the chase.  She looks freaked out, but more like "A spider is crawling on my leg" freaked, not "There's a pervert who wants to kill me" freaked.   And while she is deaf, when the stalker surprises her by grabbing her face, she doesn't even scream. 

It took me out of the film, but it was easy to get back into the mood of the film.  

My other issue is the final quarter of the film.  There is a short scene toward the end that provides some context for what we've just seen.  It's a grim few moments, where Alice's mother (played well by Sarah Buckland) and Alice's father's friend, Jon (a nuanced Nigel Long) answer questions from a policeman (Dan Gaisford).   It's a well acted bit that grinds in the dread we've been holding onto for the length of the film thus far.

When we return to the woods, there is an epilogue scene (recalling, once again, Friday the 13th).    I can't go into more detail here, because that would be an insanely huge spoiler, but suffice it to say that we don't know what was happening during the time the scene with her mom took place, and how we got from one case of affairs to this, we don't know.

CONCLUSION


"The Quiet" is a well made, thrilling and disturbing short horror film that never outstays the welcome of its brief running time.  The acting is spot on by and large, the directing and editing are impeccable as is always the case with I'm With Them Productions' output, and the tension is laid on thick as we watch a character we genuinely care about go through the ringer.

It ups the ante started by "Shrove Tuesday" and "3:00 AM", resulting in a concluding offering that more than lives up to the admittedly high expectations of I'm With Them Productions' "Vulnerable Female" horror trilogy.

Overall Scores:

Writing: 3 / 5.  "The Quiet" takes a simple story and wrings out every last bit of tension possible in its twenty minute running time.  It tells so much solely through its amazing visuals.  Despite the fact that the ending is a bit too ambiguous for my tastes, it's a definite win.
Directing: 5 / 5.  There is style and flare all over this picture.  It's not flashy, but the camera keeps moving, and every shot is purposeful and revealing.  The setting is used to the fullest, with some astonishingly beautiful shots of the English countryside.  Brilliant work by Lee Matthews.
Editing: 5/ 5.  The chase scenes are built upon stark, lonely images that emphasize poor Alice's isolation.  The pacing is well done, as well -- we're never bored, and yet we have plenty of time to scan the scene, looking for where the stalker is going to appear.  It's this attention to the ebb and flow of the story that really delivers this piece: sure, Matthews can go quick cut when he wants to, but at the same time he has the maturity to know when to stop and linger.  That jump scare with the red car was all the more effective because of this.
Sound/Music: 4.5 / 5.  The sound design was professionally done and did what it needed to.  There wasn't that much in the way of music, but Beth Fouracre's "Tarmac" was essential.  While the audio in "3:00 AM" was good, Fouracre's work felt organic to "The Quiet".  I loved it. 
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Finch was good as Alice, but I wasn't entirely sold that she felt she was in danger.  She needed to show more emotion on her face.  Nigel Long, Sarah Buckland and Dan Gaisford all did well in their roles. 

Final Grade: 4.2 / 5.  Movies like "The Quiet" are the reason why I run this website: they're truly impressive independent productions that deliver the goods and make you forget you're watching a movie.  It's not a perfect horror film, but it's pretty darn close.

Watch the full length film on YouTube and learn more about the "Vulnerable Female" horror trilogy at I'm With Them Productions' official website or their Facebook page!


Check out our very own review of "3:00 AM" and our exclusive interview with writer/director/editor Lee Matthews!

"The Quiet" will also be screened at CineMe Cinema Showcase at Henleaze Cinema in Bristol this year.  If you can make it out there, I highly recommend it.  Check out the details below and visit CineMe's Facebook page!




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!