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Monday, January 18, 2016

Cultists, Symbols & Sacrifice: "Black Sun" Short Film Starts a Franchise

"BLACK SUN" (2015)
Genre: Thriller
Length- 16:36
Company:  Caputo Productions

A mysterious cult kidnaps a young woman (Lauren Maturi), and it's up to FBI Agent John Langan (Michael Leigh Cook) to rescue her.  But when he enters the building where she's held captive, he discovers a strange symbol.

Only one man knows the background to that symbol: down on his luck symbologist Max Viggorido (Daniel Velez), but he and Langan don't cross paths much anymore ever since his wife died under mysterious circumstances made all the worse by Langan's own inability to help her.

But if Langan is going to crack this case, he's going to need Viggorido's help and fast before the cult chooses a new target!

"Black Sun" recently won the Orson Welles Award for Best Short Narrative at the California Film Awards in December, and has experienced such a positive reaction that the creators have recently announced they are expanding it into a film franchise.  Sound exciting?

I'd say so!  Let's dig into "Black Sun"!

HIGH CONCEPT

Christian Caputo and Ian Ustick are the masterminds behind "Black Sun", a short film that looks good and sounds good amid high production values.  The storyline feels very Hollywood, if a bit convoluted, particularly for the relatively short running time.  Honestly, considering all the story threads that are up in the air, I'd say at least thirty minutes are needed to resolve them all in a satisfactory way.

The directing is good across the board, a particular accomplishment since, officially, there are two directors getting credit for this picture.   The camera moves fluidly and, in particularly in the opening shots, establishes a good sense of dread as we watch assorted cultists do their thing.

There are a couple off-paced moments where it feels like the actors flub their lines, so we quick cut for no apparent reason other than to cover up the dialogue, but these are easy to overlook.

WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T 

What works the most for "Black Sun" is the interplay between Cook and Velez as actors.  They both deliver their roles with gusto and it's to their credit that the sometimes clunky script comes off as well as it does.

There's simply too much going on: the plot is not focused enough, and as a result the story structure is wobbly at best.  The conflict is confusing (shouldn't we be focusing on solving the crime?) , the conclusion is confusing and not satisfying and finally the fact that we have a symbologist and another character whose name is awfully close to Langdon, PLUS murderous cultists brings us awfully close to Da Vinci Code territory.

This is not to say it's not enjoyable for what it is, but it's certainly not winning any points in the originality department.

Now then . . . the word is that this short film is kickstarting a whole franchise of "Black Sun" films.  Perhaps future films will begin to open up the story a bit, and maybe focus on the action and thriller elements that it does best.

If that's the case, and this short film is intended as an introduction and a hint of what's to come, then I'm most certainly interested in future installments.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 1.5 / 5.  A problematic script from Caputo and Ustick.  Suffers from people who are alone talking to themselves to further the plot.
Directing: 3 / 5.  A good, involving show by and large from Caputo and Ustick.
Editing: 3.5 / 5.  Top notch production values, but the pacing is off, with far too much of the picture spent focused on Viggorido being Hamlet, and not enough being a thriller.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Moody music and professionally recorded dialogue and audio.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Our two leads are good, but it's Lauren Maturi who puts on the best show.  I 100% believed her terror in the opening minutes of the film.  The other supporting roles ranged from bad to worse.

Final Grade: 2.8 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Black Sun" and its coming sequel at the official website and follow the creators on Facebook!



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!