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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Paul B. Harris' Mockumentary "Exit Interview" Examines the Twisted Mind of a Killer

"EXIT INTERVIEW" (2014)
Genre: Mockumentary
Length- 25:40
Company: Tres Hombres Productions

Randy Lee Sommers (Paul B. Harris) is a serial killer -- no one's questioning that.  The thing is, he was horribly abused as a child which has brought on a certain medical condition -- multiple personality disorder.  At any given time, you might be talking to Randy, or maybe to hyper-aggressive Steve, or childlike Timmy.

But what bonds all these personalities together?  What's behind the mask, so to speak?

Or maybe Randy Lee Sommers doesn't have multiple personality disorder at all.  Maybe he's just a bloodthirsty sadist attempting to work the legal system into a lighter sentence.

Maybe the truth is worse than any of these . . .

FRESHLY CHILLED SPINES

Spine Chillers is an online web series brought to us for the past two years by Tres Hombres Productions.  They're dedicated to producing horror shorts with a touch (or sometimes more than a touch) of comedy to brighten things up a bit.

Tres Hombres Productions consists of Josh Becker, Christopher Dinnan and Paul B. Harris.  Each episode, one of these gentlemen writes and directs, and the others work in other capacities.  This time around, for "Exit Interview", it's Paul B. Harris' turn, and he succeeds in bringing to your computer screens a story that is dark, disturbing and yes, even scary.

THE CRIMINAL MIND

Harris has crafted a mockumentary "true crime" special and wrapped a story of mental illness and serial murder around it.  It's an interesting and effective mix -- featuring "crime scene photographs" and stills of those involved, if I didn't know the people involved from other projects I might not necessarily know it was fake until the end.

The production values are low budget, as to be expected, but the narrator (Rob Rose) sounds authentic enough to cover any problems there.

The only real issue I have with "Exit Interview" is that it is too long to not have an evolving plot.  Nothing really happens onscreen -- we see a few interviews with Randy Lee Sommers, but that's about it.  This wouldn't be as glaring of a problem if the film was shorter, but when it's clocking in at over twenty minutes in length, it becomes more and more important that the story move and twist and turn.

And that finale -- WOW, a nice piece of special effects there.  I did not expect that level of gore from this short and it was startling -- in a good way.  As far as the ultimate reveal, you could kind of see where they were going with it which made the final few shots unnecessary.  I suppose that some viewers would complain about ending it with the gore as being too ambiguous of an ending, but after that, seeing the obvious conclusion just felt like beating a dead horse.

While they were off to a rocky start when the series debuted in May 2013, Tres Hombres Productions have steadily upped the quality of their short films, culminating with "Exit Interview" and "Spoon Dog", which I reviewed last month and enjoyed greatly.

"Exit Interview" is another win for the Spine Chillers web series and, in particular, for Tres Hombres Productions.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 2.5 / 5.  The concept is solid: is a serial killer faking his multiple personality disorder to get an easier jail sentence, or is he legimitately mentally ill?  The story takes advantage of its mockumentary format to the fullest, but the plot doesn't move much -- an issue which becomes more obvious with this short film's long running time.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  Harris knows how true crime TV shows look, what they sound like and how they feel, and he delivers all of that with gusto.  The shocking final attack loses some of its impact due to weak choreography, but overall this short film looks good and has one of the best visual styles of any of the Spine Chillers episodes thus far.
Editing: 3.5 / 5.  Everything cuts together smoothly.  The film itself is too long -- we hear Randy Lee Sommers spout the same lines again and again, for example.
Sound/Music: 2 .5 / 5.  I don't recall any music in the film except for the old Spine Chillers theme song, which I just can't make myself like.  The sound design is good here though -- you can clearly hear what everyone says.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  "Exit Interview" is one of the best acted Spine Chillers episodes to date.  Though Harris as Sommers seems at first a little over the top, once you see where he's going with his performance it all makes sense.  He shows an impressive range -- from aggressive and mean to fragile and despondent, he does it all.  The supporting cast also delivers good performances, including series regular Robert J. Gordinier as the attorney who might be a sucker and John Manfredi (Oz: The Great & Powerful), who puts on the best performance of the show with his extremely believable performance as Dr. David Opher.

Final Grade: 3.1 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Exit Interview" on YouTube and visit the official Spine Chillers website right 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!