El Apache (Tino Zamora, The Beast Beneath, Angry Asian Murder Hornets), Manny (Manuel Ramirez) and Guero (Art Paul) are on the run with a big score. Sure, Guerro took a fatal chestful of hot lead. But as the two lucha hood wearing survivors head south of the border, a stop at a farmhouse leads them to Violet (Nikki Curtis Jones) and Starletta (Sparkle Soojian), two brujas who have plans for our protagonists. Bad plans. And what does that pig mask have to do with all of this?
Writer/Director Michael S. Rodriguez has turned out a 12-minute tight tale of murder and mayhem that leaves you wanting more. Here’s to him getting a bigger budget and platform to do something huge with this story, because the bones are all there.
It’s pretty great that in a tenth of the length of most movies this film gets more out of its story. It’s economical in more ways than just the budget. Once it’s available for streaming, we’ll make sure to get the link out there.
There’s nothing quite like a social media excursion into the realms of indie films and coming to discover an up-and-coming writer and director. To say this short is a great industry calling card is an understatement, as it’s won 83 film festival awards (IMDb list) across various disciplines.
And this homage that travels the dusty trails of the supernatural western that dates back to Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” is certainly deserving — and it reminds us of the old west-meets-the supernatural majesty of Eyes of Fire (1983), a film so majestic, that we reviewed it, not once (for our “Movies Never Released to DVD” feature), but twice (for “Satan Week”). Can we plug our obsession with all things Amityville (see our “Exploring: Amityville” feature) as well? If you know that cinematic franchise of sequels, prequels, and sidequels, they’re usually stitched together via the possession of inanimate objects (clocks, lamps, toys, clown dolls, shiny trinkets, etc.).
Ghost in the Gun is Chen’s second writing effort that also serves as his directing debut: a supernatural journey of revenge concerned with a man left for dead. Upon discovering a possessed gun, he transforms into a gunslinger hellbent to revenge his wife’s murder — but unbeknownst to him, the “gun” has its own, hellbent agenda.
What makes this Twilight Zone-inspired tale work — besides Chen’s skills at the Final Draft and Canon Reds — is the fact that it stars ubiquitous TV actor Tim Russ (as the Ghost in the Gun); yes, Tuvok from the Star Trek-verse. But since this is B&S About Movies, we have to mention Tim’s work in Dead Silence, and for the younger, Nickelodeon crowd, you’ll remember him as Principal Franklin on iCarly. And you’ll recognize Ross Turner from the Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why, here as the dastardly Sheriff Hicks. The film’s under-the-radar lead, Darren Bridgett, a veteran of various shorts and indie productions (his most visible support role was in 2013’s critical and award-winning favorite Fruitvale Station), carries the film with the class of a major studio, A-List actor.
Ghost in the Gun isn’t just some film school short . . . where our auteur ends up with a career slingin’ hash at Chili’s, pardner: the quality here is of a major studio-level film (that reminds of Brando Benetton’s college thesis project, Nightfire). So you’ll be seeing bigger films and bigger roles from both Andrew Chen and Darren Bridgett.
From the Sci-Fi Nerds Department: If you’re a Lucas-head or a Trekkie, you’ve experienced writer-director Andrew Chen’s pen before, with his 2016 screenwriting debut, Where No Jedi Has Gone Before (that’d I love to see expanded into a feature), concerned with a die-hard Star Wars fan meeting his girlfriend’s Trekkie-obsessed parents.
And we’d love to see Ghost in the Gun as a feature-length film. Yes, it’s that good. You can learn more about the film and keep abreast of its eventual streaming release on its official Facebook and Twitter pages.
Oh, and by the way . . . we love our western spaghetti ’round these ‘ere parts of Allegheny County, pardner. So much so that we loaded up the pasta pots with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” that ran this past Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22 — and our “Drive-In Friday” tribute to the Spaghetti Westerns of Klaus Kinski will get you started.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the director or a P.R firm. We discovered this film on our own and requested a screener. And we truly enjoyed the film.
During the election of 1916, suffragist Inez Milholland (Amy Walker, who also wrote this short) will stop at nothing to get people behind the right for women to vote. Even terminal illness won’t hold back her final speech.
While so many men see women voting as a threat, she keeps fighting and collapses at the conclusion of her most important speech. While a doctor begs that she rests, she instead puts her cause ahead of her life.
This was directed by Jessica Graham and despite it being only 12 minutes long, it really sets itself up to make you want to see even more of this story. It’s well-shot and edited, well beyond what you’d expect from a lower budget short.
This is a reminder that the rights that we accept today as normal were once anything but. And if we’ve learned anything from this last election, it’s that the voice that we take for granted today may not be there forever unless we continue to fight.
Don’t get excited — this isn’t the official G.I. Joe movie that got moved to next year. No, instead it’s a short film created by Rene Perez (Death Kiss), which has seventh degree black belt martial artist Juan Manuel Olmedo as the title character and Miss Nevada 2020 Victoria Olona as Snake Eyes’ wife (who is decidely not Scarlett).
Perez and producer Joseph Camilleri previously collaborated on the film The Insurrection, with the director’s next movie being Righteous Blood, which will star Michael Pare and Emily Whitcomb.
While this is a fan film, it’s packed with some pretty good action. That said, if you’re a Joe fan — I mean, I only have 8 or 9,000 of the modern era figures and a room devoted specifically to their display — you’ll be disappointed that this has nothing to do with any of the continuity of the line. It’s a stand-alone story of Snake Eyes last mission.
That said, it will hopefully tide you over until the October 22, 2021 re-release date of the official film.
Day 10: Plastique Vivant: Manniquins are creepy enough standing still, but what happens when they come to life? (Window Dressing)
I came to my gig as the (chief) grease bit scrubber and dumpster pad washer at the ol’ B&S Bar n’ Grill by way of my screenwriting endeavors, which born out of my acting endeavors (which born out of my radio jock days).
As result, I’ve been to more than my fair share of film festivals, not only for the shorts I worked on, but for the films of others — in support of my fellow thespin’ brethren. And as someone who’s worked in the short film realm, take it from me: most of them are arduous, not only to work on, but to watch. As an actor, nothing is more heartbreaking than to pour your soul into someone’s vision to make it the very best short film it can be — only to see that filmmaker’s industry “calling card” disintegrate into an utter failure. And that’s not even counting the shorts that, through sheer directorial ineptitude and an indifferently staffed and in disarray film school, are never finished. The whole angle of the short filmVerse is that, while you, the actor, do not get paid, “you’ll get a finished film/clips for your reel.” And, as goes my luck, the filmmakers that never “paid” me with a finished film or so much as a clip (even after begging), far outnumbers the ones that did “pay” me. And, very few of those were of a quality to use as demo reel material.
Anyway, I digress . . . bottom line: I’ve seen lots of short films. I’ve long since surpassed my Hollywood-mainstream film attendances with my affection for the new breed cultivated in film festivals: I love going to film festivals, seeing short films, and acting in short films: the camaraderie of the indie environs is pure electric. It’s oxygen. It’s life.
And — in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled filmmaker, one who checks their ego at the door and respects their actors and crew and realizes that film is a “team” effort — the short film story format works and there are, in fact, filmmakers who do not make you dread film festivals, but look forward to them. There’s nothing more pleasing, more exhilarating than to see all of those years of college and university-level film school classes pay off in spades. I am of the camp that doesn’t want those budding filmmakers to suck at their chosen profession: I want to see them succeed.
And as I went down a You Tube rabbit hole, I discovered another Frank Barrone-moment, you know, a “holy crap” moment, with writer and director Dave Bundtzen’s The Devil’s Passengers.
Bundtzen’s been bangin’ at the Final Draft and eyein’ the Canon Reds since the early ’90s across fifteen shorts, with thirteen of them as a screenwriter, and a seventeen-film mix as a producer of his own shorts and of others. So it’s no secret that Bundtzen is bringing an A-Game to the table. He possesses an expert concept of what a short film should be: short. His films are well-written and edited and fully-character arced in less than five minutes, exactly as a short film should.
Ack! Please don’t delve into a college thesis on the craft of screenwriting, and act structure, R.D.
Don’t worry; I’m pulling back the reins. But take my word for it: Bundtzen’s short film days are numbered. There’s a feature film on the horizon.
His latest short-fiction work, The Devil’s Passenger, concerns a woman (a very good Colleen Kelly, who reminds of Dakota Johnson; I actually thought, at first, it was Australian actress Amanda Woodhams from 2020’s Dark Sister) in a traffic jam that desperately tries to help another woman she sees in the back of a van hold — held by a hand that appears from the dark background of the vehicle.
And that brings us to Dave Bundtzen and Colleen Kelly’s newest film (and the Scarecrow Video Challenge part), along with the expertly creepy Elaine Partnow, in a tale about Danielle (Kelly), a young woman who responds to an innocent “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the Rose Time antique dress shop run by Clara (Partnow), a kindly, senior shop keep. Now, if you know your British Amicus horror anthologies, you know about those little, out-of-the-way shops and their affable clerks. Yeah, this isn’t going to end well for young Danielle. The “Amicus” vibe of Bundtzen’s pen is buoyed by Gavin V. Murray’s stellar cinematography that gives the proceedings a very-Argento vibe.
The Devil’s Passengers and Window Dressing are currently streaming on You Tube, along with Bundtzen’s early efforts Siri (2012) and Tap (2018), courtesy of Flix Horror’s You Tube Platform. And, what I really dig: Bundtzen supports other short-horror purveyors, as his nifty “Great Horror Short Films on You Tube” playlist attests. Watch ’em once, twice, watch three times. Just an awesome day of movie viewing to be had over at Flix Horror’s page.
Colleen Kelly made one foray into network television with an appearance on ABC-TV’s Castle. Here’s to hoping she makes a much deserved transition out of shorts and indies and into more network television (yeah, you know me well: Law & Order: SVU and Blue Bloods) and A-List feature films. In fact, if you’re a Felissa Rose (A Nun’s Curse, Rootwood) fan — and aren’t we all — you’ve also seen Kelly’s work alongside Rose in Clawed (2017).
You can learn more about Dave Bundtzen’s filmmaking endeavors at Flix Digital’s website and Facebook page.
Disclaimer: We were not sent screeners or received a review requests for either of these shorts. We discovered them on our own and truly enjoyed both works.
If you’re a frequent visitor to B&S About Movies, you know of my admiration for Law and Order: TOS and SVU. However, while expertly produced and acted, my precious exploits of Captain Olivia Benson and her squad (and Blue Bloods, I think) sometimes falls back on the ol’ the-car-won’t start-at-the-most-inopportune-moment trope of the ol’ our-security-cameras-haven’t-worked-in-months-and-our-bosses-are-too-cheap-to-fix-‘em trope.
But guess what?
It’s not a screenwriting trope. I’ve witnessed four incidents during my 9 to 5 lifetime where crimes-incidents (yes, people do spike coffee pots and icepick tires and key paint and steal food and spread icky-sticky things around and go into cubicle “smack down” mode) occurred in my workplace—and the cameras were broke. And yes, back in the pre-digital epoch when VCRs interfaced with those cameras—the VHS tapes really were “taped over” every 24 to 48 hours. And security cameras really are the new “digital mailboxes,” as wayward teens like to either—due to a lack of a “canvas” to craft an epithet on—spray paint the lenses or give ‘em a whack with a baseball bat, you know, for fun. Those rascally scamps.
Courtesy of digital technologies and through constant hardware miniaturization upgrades, security cameras—that you don’t know are there and everywhere—are recording everything. And if there’s not a camera to capture our societal faux pas, someone is at the smartphone-ready—recording everything. Then there are those high-tech-toys-not-meant-for-boys drones that, as with any piece of technology, are a benefit to man in the right hands—and a nefarious tool in bad hands. And if those technologies aren’t capturing us in an innocent Ridiculousness moment, the digital ethers chronicle our not-so-innocent-moments; ubiquitous technologies that leads to nary the pass of a day that our local and national news or browser portal feeds go without a newsworthy event or crime—thought private—that becomes our “forever” moment. . . .
A young office worker is thrust into that world of false security set forth by those omnipresent cameras capturing our forever moments—cameras that really are sometimes malfunctioning or vandalized and never repaired by our bottom-line employers. And if you’ve worked odd-ball hours in the big city, then you’ve experienced the reasonable fears of those remote, concrete wildernesses known as a parking garage. . . .
And, for this young office drone, that broken security camera in that desolate parking garage becomes a catalyst: her life is about to change . . . but is it for the better . . . or the worst?
Spoiler Alert: Watch the short, now, in its entirety, before scrolling onward.
Prior to watching and reviewing this debut work by Austin, Texas-based writer and director Travis White, I wrote an upcoming review for our October “All Slasher-All Horror Month” for Thom Eberhardt’s (Night of the Comet) horror-thriller Naked Fear (2007)—a film that concerns a woman’s emotional breakdown and catharsis at the nefarious hands of others.
The reason for my critical analogy of these two decade-apart films is that I see the possibilities of White’s short film—which is exactly what a short film is supposed to do: leave you wanting more; to serve as a visual business card to pitch a feature film development deal.
I’m not privy to reading “Why Is It Always So Dark Here?,” the short story on which this film is based, but I look forward to learning about this office worker’s exploits that—considering Thom Eberhardt’s work with the great Sir Michael Caine (1988’s Without a Clue)—remind of one of my favorite films starring Sir Michael: A Shock to the System (1990). In that film, the accidental death of a hated co-worker at Caine’s hands starts off an anti-hero murder-to-right-the-wrongs-and-for-workplace-advancement chain of events.
You can watch the complete film—and other productions—courtesy of Wet Demin Production’s You Tube page. And, in a special treat, we have an opportunity to share the film’s storyboards completed by writer-director Travis White. As you can see, no matter how long or short the film, an incredible amount of thought, time, effort, and planning goes into a film. It’s not about the length. It’s always about the content. Always.
If this is what Travis White (and producer Madison Phillips) can do in less than five minutes with his debut work, then we’re looking forward to see what he can do with his future works. In fact, he’s currently in the pre-production stages of his next short-narrative, Man Seeking Man (beware of those who ask for “favors”), which will see release in 2021. And you’ll hear about it first, at B&S About Movies.
And bigger things are on the horizon for actress Lee Eddy, here as the nameless office worker. She’s currently in pre-production on Richard Linklater’s (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure, a coming-of-age story set in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, in the summer of 1969, centered on the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. That film stars Zachary Levi (Thor: Ragnarok and Shazam!) and Jack Black (Jumanji: The Next Level). Eddy’s husband, Macon Blair, won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for the Netflix-released I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Fans of Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard may want to check out the film (it’s great, by the way) as it co-stars lead vocalist David Yow (Under the Silver Lake).
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s public relations firm. That has no bearing on our review.
We’ve gone down the DUST rabbit hole once before — as part of last year’s Scarecrow Video of Seattle’s Psychotronic October Scarecrow Challenge of watching 31 movies in 31 days. For the 24th day of the challenge, the theme was “Short Attention Span Theatre: Watch Some Shorts or Anthology Things.” And I chose to meet the challenge with a pair of short films from DUST: a You Tube-based, social media portal that features science fiction shorts from emerging filmmakers obsessed with aliens, robots, space exploration, technology, and the human experience in space.
During my last year’s DUST excursion, I felt moved to the point of wanting to review two of the many wonderful films on the DUST platform — and chose to review Colin West’s Plastic Pink Flamingos and Marko Slavanic’s Skyborn. This year, I was wowed by the writing and directing, narrative-fiction debut of Ben Griffin, a filmmaker who earned his bones in the music video field with the likes of Demi Lovato, Imagine Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly, and Metallica* (2019’s Metallica & San Francisco Symphony). (We previously reviewed A Clear Shot, the latest feature film by Nick Leisure, himself a writer-director who rose up through the music video field ranks.)
Lewis Tan (Shatterstar in Deadpool 2; Gaius Chau on AMC’s Into The Badlands; Lu Xin Lee in Netflix’s Wu Assassins) is Ji, a modified human and commanding General in a military unit protecting the mechanized exo-planet Nilo. His artificial life on his artificial home world is perfect — yet, he hungers to learn of his human roots.
Against orders and abandoning his post, Ji sets off for Earth and comes to discover it’s not the wasteland he and his people were told. Upon arrival, he meets an Earth woman (Eva De Dominici, of the upcoming Bruce Willis sci-fi actioner Cosmic Sin and TV’s Hawaii Five-O) and falls in love. You’ll also recognized Peter Adrian Sudarso (Marvin Shih and Preston Tien in the respective Power Rangers‘ spinoff series HyperForce and Ninja Steel) as Ji’s commanding officer who ventures to Earth to return him to Nilo.
Ben Griffin’s debut is the epitome of skilled filmmaking at its finest, complete with a top-notch, imaginative script flowing in perfect harmony with a solid cast and stunning special effects: a highly recommended watch that’s worthy of expansion into a feature-length film. The last time I was this enraptured with an action-oriented short film, was Brando Benetton’s top notch college thesis project, Nightfire. Which proves my ongoing point: it doesn’t have to be long to be good: it’s in the content, not the length.
You can learn more about the works of San Francisco’s Ben Griffin and his Prime Zero Productions at their official website, Facebook and You Tube pages. After completing a successful film festival run, Ji is now available at DUST You Tube as of July 30, 2020.
* We previously reviewed Metallica’s support of Spencer Susser in 2010’s Hesher (Will somebody please back Spencer and let him make another feature film, will yah? Hesher is so good.)
Disclaimer: We were not sent a screener or received a review request for this short. We discovered it on our own and truly enjoyed the work.
Aiden (Baker Chase Powell), a socially-inept thrift store clerk, wants to find true love (“true love” is a girl who likes jigsaw puzzles), but his courage-defying insecurities lead to social media ghosting of any connections he makes on dating apps (and his “agoraphobic-dating” a dumpster-dived mannequin). Also looking for — and fearful of love — is his co-worker, Elaine (Ashley Jones), whose own generosity with advice and to-a-fault kindness crossed with shyness perpetuates her own loneliness. And Aiden’s inability to pick up on another’s social cues makes him oblivious to Elaine’s feelings for him.
Aiden comes to find the courage through Chelsea (Samantha Boscarino), his new, beautiful — an ulterior-motive driven — apartment-across-the-hall neighbor (who digs the puzzle on his coffee table and his “vintage” ’70s-era phone). And she, like Aiden, has a failure adapting to and connecting with others through social (media) norms. And that common — real life and social media — awkwardness sends Aiden and Chelsea into a noirish decline of dangerous infatuation and obsession.
Sigmund Freud just called. Mommy’s womb wants you back; you’re not ready to be around people.
This creepy thriller effectively updates the twisty, black & white tales of Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain for a digital world. And when the “harmless” Aiden locks his stare on his mannequin and he starts stealing dainties . . . and the friendly Elaine comments, “. . . you think you know people. . . .” Chills (courtesy of the-just-nails-it Powell). You know this isn’t going to end well. And Cassie Keet’s script (written with director Marc Cartwright) of well-crafted herrings and Cartwright’s taste for the (Dario) Argento hits all the noir-giallo cues: when that dainty, red slip hits the Laundromat floor — well, poor Aiden just found Ms. Dietrichson’s “honey of an anklet” (Double Indemnity) and triggered a femme fatale chain-of-events.
If you’ve hung out with B&S About Movies for a time, then you know how we feel (but we’re nice) about indie films by unknown filmmakers meandering with an unfocused narrative structure towards a patience-trying two-hour mark that’s crying for a 30-minute celluloid sushi in Final Cut Pro. Then there are those films that run extensive end credits to pad their too-short running time to a home-distribution acceptable 80-minutes.
What’s makes this 22-minute fifth short by writer-director Marc Cartwright so refreshing is that you’re left wanting more. And that doesn’t happen often (the recent The Invisible Mother is an example of that “wanting”). You feel denied by not getting that other hour of film with We Die Alone. If there’s ever a short film that deserves expanding into a feature film (Fruit Chan’s cringey masterpiece Dumplings comes to mind), then it’s We Die Alone.
If Baker Chase Powell is familiar, that’s because he co-starred as Steve Dodd in Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy’s multiple-award winning biopic on ’70s exploitation filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. Daytime TV fans have watched the Emmy-nominated Ashley Jones on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful; HBO surfers know her from her recurring role as Daphne on True Blood. You’ve recently watch Samantha Boscarino on FOX-TV’s The Resident, but our younger readers will remember her recurring role on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie; Lifetime fans enjoyed her as the lead in 2016’s The Cheerleader Murders (and she’s very good there, and here).
We Die Alone made its premiere at the Oscar-qualifying festivals LA Shorts and The Newport Beach Film Festival. It also picked up award wreaths at the Indie Memphis Film Festival (“Best After Dark Short”), iHorror Film Festival (“Best Director”), Shriekfest (“Best Thriller Short” and “Best Actor” for Baker Chase Powell), Filmquest (“Best Horror Short” and “Best Supporting Actress” for Ashley Jones), Crimson Screen Film Festival (“Best Actor” for Powell), Nightmares Film Fest (Powell, “Best Actor,” natch), and finally, GenreBlast (“Best Short Film”). Most recently, the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in Waco, Texas, granted three award nods to the film: Best Horror/Thriller Short, Best United States Short, and Best Performance for Baker Chase Powell. That festival streams from Waco on September 25 through 27 and October 2 through 4. Tickets are now on sale now at www.deepintheheartff.com.
You’ll be able to stream this multi-award festival winner beginning August 21 through Amazon Prime, with other services to follow. You can stay abreast of those developments with We Die Alone — as well as the other projects of Glass Cabin Films — on You Tube and Facebook and their official website.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.
Over one tense afternoon in a car, Jimmy (Xavian Russell, Top Boy) comes back home and comes to terms with former drug buddy Che (Rebekah Brookes-Murrell). This film also features Aaron Thomas Ward, who was in Accident Man.
The beauty of this film is how it uses its limited setting to tell a much larger story. Credit for that goes not only to director Louis Chan, but to the talented actors who bring this story to life.
Genevieve is a spin-off of that last film. In this five-minute-long story, Ted Morris is attending his son’s funeral while two criminals are breaking into his home. Those criminals want one thing: the infamous — and potentially saleable — killer doll, Genevieve. Of course, things don’t go well.
Nicholas does a lot right — he has an IMDB page for the movie, he sends out numerous links for reviews and keeps pushing. Sooner or later, he’s going to make a movie that isn’t shot in POV and has people swearing to themselves for the entire running time. Again, this is not that time, but I also know that next year, I’ll have another film from him that will look better than this one.
For example, the credits look great on this one. So does the poster. It’s another step forward.