Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Director's Cut (2012)

The opening credits for Director’s Cut include a statement that screenwriter Claire “Fluff” Llewellyn used her experiences working on low budget horror movies as inspiration for her script.  The resulting short film is quite enjoyable, though it might lead to troubling thoughts concerning the state of independent horror productions.

The film starts as indie filmmaker Damon Ingmar (Happy Dave) finishes his latest script, which he knows will change the face of cinematic horror.  Of course, the film will contain lots of blood and boobs, though he doesn’t really have funds to pay for either.  And he’s having a problem finding the right actor to play the villain of the piece.

During an Internet search, he stumbles across the web page for Jeannie (Llewellyn), who promises to make one’s movie-making wishes come true.  And, as luck would have it, Jeannie appears at the door of his basement apartment to audition and is quickly cast as the villain.  As expected, mayhem ensues as she delivers on her website’s promise.

Yes, it’s a basic “Monkey Paw” style plot.  But the film works, thanks to Llewellyn’s script and her depiction of the people involved with independent horror productions.  Though the short contains a couple of likable characters, most of the people surrounding Ingmar are more concerned with stroking their own ego than making a decent film. And while it's entertaining to see what happens to these characters, it's also rather depressing to realize they are based on real people and events.  But, at least in horror films, such behavior is often rewarded in a gruesome fashion.

Happy Dave’s portrayal of Ingmar is terrific.  He chews up the scenery at every chance, a loud mouthed, insufferable ass convinced of his own genius while reveling he has neither the skill nor the talent to make a movie.  Though his performance could have devolved into high camp, Dave keeps the character relatable to the audience, at least to those who've worked around such a person.

The only downfall to Dave's performance is the rest of the cast suffers for it.  The actors don’t get enough screen time to develop their characters and insure a reaction from the audience once their fate is reveled.  

I’m sure Llewellyn could have remedied that situation, had the film’s running time been lengthened a bit.  And I’m certain the actors would be up for the task as well.  Though Happy Dave steals the show, the rest of the cast is quite good, despite a couple of rough spots.  

Director/editor Christopher Kahler’s work is solid.  While his interior camerawork suffers from the confines of the locations used in the film, his exterior work is very good and much more interesting.  And one of the death sequences is quite shocking, thanks to skillful editing and some well composed shots.

My only real complaint is with the nude scenes.  Due to Ingmar’s constant rants about having bare breasts in his film, Llewellyn’s script seems to have taken a stance against such gratuitous moments.  This makes the inclusion of two montages of topless women at odds with the script’s tone.  The fact that these scenes are composed of footage from other sources (rather than shot for the film), and neither adds anything to the plot, makes the sequences feel out of place and included only to satisfy the prurient interests of some audience members.  A minor quibble, to be sure, but the scenes distract from the rest of the film. 

Despite a familiar plot, Director’s Cut is a well-told tale and a revealing look at the people creating low budget horror films.  To be fair, I’m sure not everyone involved in the indie horror scene is as despicable as Ingmar and the others in his cast and crew.  But it is depressing to think of filmmakers, like the ones that inspired this short, are making movies, regardless of the budget involved.

Oh, Jeannie, where art thou?