DVD REVIEW: The Abandoned
Last year I received a screener DVD entitled BRACKISH by the upcoming indie filmmaker Matt Peters. I must admit, I was merciless in my review of the film, going on for pages about the necessity of a return to the essential basics of good filmmaking when in the absence of a large production budget. To quote from my previous review on Fatally Yours:
“When serious creators of this new breed of independent film begin their work, knowing the vast limitations of their resources, they have to keep in mind that other core elements of the film will become even more important because they cannot fall back on a slick presentation or fancy special effects. The basics, the essentials of film such as acting, script crafting and timing have to support and carry the production from beginning to end, without fail. Otherwise, as in the case of Brackish by Mad Angel Films and director Matt Peters, the film feels like little more than a home movie, but without the genuine emotion or spontaneity of real life...”
As you can see, my opinion of the first Matt Peters production was less than stellar. There were simply so very many aspects of the film that were excruciatingly bad, from the vapid, cliché script to the morbidly poor acting, that I managed to write over a thousand words before even beginning my actual breakdown of the film itself. Truthfully, BRACKISH had me alternating between cringing and laughing till tears streamed down my face at its absurdity. Have no fear, I won’t rant and rave and wax poetic, yet again, about a return to filmmaking essentials, though I feel greatly compelled to at the moment after watching the newest Mad Angel Films creation, THE ABANDONED. I will say that this new film is definitely a massive improvement over the last. I can see how Peters is attempting to evolve his abilities as an indie filmmaker as he appears to be experimenting with such aspects as more cleverly designed camera angles and slightly more intense scene direction. The “randomness” of the plot was not nearly as ridiculous as the zombie-devil-worshipping comedy culmination of BRACKISH. In fact, the opening couple of minutes in THE ABANDONED would actually make for an excellent metal music video (perhaps this is what they should be focusing on instead of feature length films, at least for the time being?). However, I still feel that Mad Angels Films still has a long way to go before their productions are considered cult-worthy. My reasons for this can be boiled down to three primary elements for my dissection of this new film: acting, story and script.
THE ABANDONED takes us into a post-apocalyptic earth overrun by a new race of cannibalistic mutants called “Creepers”. Amongst the last surviving humans exists a young girl who was born with special genetic traits, which allow her the ability to survive the harsh weather conditions of the new earth. This girl must be delivered to a city which has been rumored to the be the “last remnant of humankind”… This is what the movie’s plot boils down to and this is about as much explanation as you receive. The “catastrophic event” that threw the earth into a semi-ice age plagued by flesh-eating zombie-esque humanoids, the evolution of these mutants and what happened to all of humanity except for this little band of survivors are topics that are never really discussed. The viewer is simply expected to accept it and move on. This bothers me. Even if you take one short scene and talk briefly about all of these issues, it simply has to be covered. I realize that, between all of the high-pitched screaming scenes of Creepers awkwardly lunging at the humans and running through abandoned buildings, it might be hard to work in a little thorough background, but without it, the viewer is left with too many questions, which creates a hollowness in the movie that is irreparable. There are also far too many inconsistencies in the overall storyline that are neither subtle nor forgivable. The main character Nate (Mark Joseph Peek) is supposedly to have been “abandoned by society”, yet he is part of what remains of said society from the very beginning. The genetically evolved girl, who is supposed to have special abilities to survive the cold does not seem any more unique or adaptive than her fellow humans; in several scenes the other humans are wearing light coats or even just an canvas military jacket and appear almost unfazed by the snow. The Creepers at times seem completely mindless and feral and at other times organized and determined with a special agenda and leadership of their own. Again, these types of glitches in the flow of the film are irksome and cause the entire story to rapidly unravel until the film is filled with holes.
The inconsistencies and unexplained storyline deviations are only worsened by yet another terribly written script of one cliché line after another woven together in an awkward, stereotypical fashion. The over all feel of the script is one of stolen moments from various action and sci-fi films, much the way that BRACKISH felt as if it had been spliced together from previous slasher films, but regurgitated in a way which fails to capture the intensity or uniqueness of the original inspiration. This is only amplified by the stale delivery of the script by the cast of THE ABANDONED. The high-school drama department performances are completely uninspiring and lifeless, each actor speaking their lines in a stilted, dull way that proves their limited training in acting. Again, I came away from this film feeling as if Peters simply rounded up a bunch of his friends and said “hey guys, want to make a movie?” without actually taking the time to audition actual actors. Even the members of the cast with professional training and degrees in drama struggle to breathe any true emotion into the script. Thus, the combination of the badly written script and the limited acting abilities of the cast are simply disastrous.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, despite how simply bad I personally feel THE ABANDONED is, I recognize the minute improvements over the original Mad Angel Films production and truly hope that Matt Peters’ films will continue to evolve over time. I simply can’t help but continue to think about a part of the original promotional packet that came with BRACKISH in which Peters said that “artistic avant-garde ways of film making” are all “nonsense”. This causes me to wonder if he will continue to barrel ahead with his productions without consideration to any regard to the fundamental essentials of good filmmaking? Something tells me, he will despite what anyone else has to say about it.