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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!



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!