Thursday, 16 July 2015

RAW REVIEW: THE THIN MAN

Young filmmaker Bayden Ray Redshaw may not be a name with which you are familiar. I came across his work (often in collaboration with his brother Dylan John Redshaw) on Facebook and it convinced me to check out his YouTube channel (here) where I saw a few of his very cool micro-budget shorts, including The Doll, Bed Time and The Thin Man trilogy. I'll wait here while you check them out, see you soon.
Back again? Pretty cool, right? 
Well now Redshaw has returned to his Thin Man mythos and given the story a feature-length outing. With a larger cast and more time to tell his story, can Redshaw flesh out the scares of the short films into an appetising movie? Or will the longer runtime just thin them out?
Read on...

THE THIN MAN (2015)



Dir: Bayden Ray Redshaw, Dylan John Redshaw
Starring: Bayden Ray Redshaw, Dylan John Redshaw, Jordan Stopforth, Keearna Lee Westcott, Rob Tomlinson, Alasdair Patton

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

The film opens with a young man, Rob (Tomlinson), performing a ritual in the dark woodlands on the outskirts of Albany, West Australia. Upon completing the ritual, ominous camera interference doesn't quite conceal the arrival of another individual, then the clip ends abruptly.
From here we meet our stars, Bayden (writer/director Redshaw) who has just returned home after a lengthy hospital stay. As an aspiring filmmaker he looks to recruit his dubious brother Dylan (star of The Thin Man shorts) and friend, yet-to-arrive Jordan, to investigate the viral video we have just seen and the local legend of The Thin Man. 
The Thin Man was originally a warlock in the 1800s who drew the ire of the Albany townsfolk for his ungodly ways. As a punishment he was confined to a cave and over time the locals neglected to feed him, causing him to slowly starve to death. It is said that the ritual depicted earlier in the film can summon his vengeful spirit.
Now the boys are looking to make a film on the Thin Man lore, notably whether it is true or to debunk it as yet another Bloody Mary-esque campfire ghost story.
Eventually Jordan arrives and tells his pals that his now ex-girlfriend Keearna (Westcott) has dumped him, due in no small part to his inability to hold down a job and willingness to drop it all for a fun time with the Redshaw brothers. In time-honoured tradition, the brothers decide to help him drown his sorrows.
However an excess of alcohol leads to not only a disastrous late-night Skype call to Keearna, but also the boys heading out to the nearby Oval to perform the ritual. When it seems to fail, the inebriated lads head back to the house to continue drinking.
But did things really go as unsuccessfully as it first seemed? Have the trio attracted unwanted attention? And if so, from what and at what cost?



THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): To me one of the strongest points of the Thin Man films so far has been its compelling and decidedly creepy mythos. What at first sounds like it is going to be yet another shitty Slender Man rip-off is actually a very cool idea for a villain. Redshaw has invented an excellent piece of horror villainy that really does deserve to reach a wider audience. 
Speaking of Redshaw, as well as showing a promising flair for directing, he's also a pretty damn good actor. Yes, he's done some work on this side of the camera in the past, but this is the first time I've seen him at length. This is a capable and believable performance, as are those of Dylan and Stopforth.
One of the strongest sections of the film is the early introduction to these characters and the fact that the three are friends in real life really helps their dynamic. The camaraderie is palpable and the relaxed, natural-feeling improvisational nature of the dialogue only helps to draw the viewer in. The relationships and characters feel decidedly real so it is all the easier to care about their plight. 
I also like the fact that the Redshaw brothers devoted so much time at the beginning of the film to fully fleshing these characters out before throwing them into peril. All too often horror movies expect us to care about characters who, quite frankly, are little more than two-dimensional stereotypes. Here we are given a central trio whose actions and interactions give us a clear insight into who they are and what their motivation is. Well done, gentlemen.
Of course, as this is a horror flick what most of you will want to know is does this deliver on the scares?
I think the Thin Man trilogy of shorts manage some wonderfully atmospheric chills at times and this feels very much like an extended version of one of these films. Most notably, it felt a lot like the third film (which, incidentally, is my favourite). 
Arguably the most effective scare technique used in the short films is the memorable corrupted audio and video quality when the Thin Man is nearby. Like Silent Hill's chilling air-raid siren, it's a clever tension ratcheting tool that lets the viewer know something pretty damn creepy is imminent. The disconcerting grainy, static flecked visuals act as a nice cue for the horrors to follow. Furthermore, the sudden blaring sound of the corrupted audio, when combined with the abrupt manifestation of the shadowy Thin Man leads to some very effective jump scares.
Due to this 'interference' we rarely see the Thin Man, certainly not in much more than silhouette, but this works in the film's favour. The imagination can conjure far more nightmarish imagery than the Redshaw's limited budget could possibly have created.
What's more, the duo have a clear understanding of how to use the P.O.V. nature of Found Footage to cultivate a scare. The Redshaws use empty space and the areas we cannot see to craft some tension filled set pieces, keeping the audience on edge as the camera slowly creeps around corners or opens sealed doors to reveal the unknown. 
I've said before that it takes a lot of skill to make a Found Footage flick that feels like a genuine unscripted and unplanned documentary. Thankfully, this is something that Bayden and Dylan definitely have. The raw realism of the film is one of the movie's greatest assets and arguably its most invaluable tool when it comes to delivering effective and creepy scares. Kudos, gentlemen!




THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): It feels decidedly unsporting to pick at a micro-budget endeavour such as this. Either side of The Thin Man I've watched big budget efforts Insidious: Chapter 3 and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Maggie, so to find fault with any production values feels decidedly unjust. However, should you be less accustomed to lower budget Indie horror and more used to the types of title that I just mentioned, some of you may find fault with the look and sound design of the film. As this is meant to be a genuine YouTube project, I think these qualities add some authenticity to proceedings, but be warned.
Also, while I praised the effective dynamic that casting friends in key roles gave to the film, every now and then the cast's lack of experience would come to the fore. This was most noticeable during the times when scripted lines that act as key plot points arose. The natural ebb and flow of the improvised dialogue is superb, but every now and then line delivery did feel a little clunky. Unfortunately one character who appears later on in the film has dialogue that consists almost entirely of storyline exposition so his comes across as the weakest performance. Also, every now and then I did spot a little bit of corpsing. It's entirely natural that when you're having fun on a project with your friends you may smile or giggle, but it can negatively affect a scene. Yes, when confronted with the unknown and eerie it can be common to develop a nervous laugh, but I didn't get the impression that was the intended effect. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that these are not professional actors at work here, so, on the whole, I think the cast deserve a significant amount of praise for the fact that they do get it right so often rather than any criticism for the times in which they don't.
There could also be some complaints levelled at the way the guys react to some seriously messed-up stuff that happens later on. Then again, they were supposed to be drunk so we do have an instant get out for any dubious responses.
One other area in which the film may have benefited would have been a couple more takes of some scenes/shots or a little longer in the editing room. From what I understand, Redshaw spent a significant amount of time cutting the film down to its current runtime, which leaves me wondering whether certain scenes and moments could have been expanded upon better? For example, the Thin Man's backstory is delivered in a rather rushed manner and I actually prefer the level of detail given it in the very first Thin Man short. It feels a little like there's an assumed familiarity with the source material which may alienate some viewers. Regarding the editing there are also a couple of repetitive moments that could also have been trimmed or excised entirely. 
Strangely I was left with the feeling that it should be about 15 minutes shorter or a good 20 minutes longer. Having enjoyed so much of what is here, I really do hope to get to see a version running closer to Redshaw's original runtime. I think it'd be a blast!
Finally, I feel it necessary to mention the toad kicking scene. I think some viewers will be a little upset by this sequence, and while it does give a good indication of the way in which the lads are carefree, inebriated youngsters prone to the random moments of silliness to which, well, carefree, inebriated youngsters are, but it might have been better demonstrated via a scene less-likely to draw complaints.



THE VERDICT: I'm definitely going to recommend The Thin Man. It's an excellent low budget chiller from a genuinely talented pair of young up and coming filmmakers with plenty of passion and imagination for their craft. What's more, I hope that this film finds a larger audience so the Redshaw brothers can revisit this property in the future. The pair have already launched their own independent film label and with plenty more titles in the offing, including a feature length adaptation of The Doll, these guys are well deserving of your support and definitely a group of individuals to look out for in the future.
The film hasn't yet found distribution but to find out more about it head over to The Thin Man's official Facebook page here. To find out more about Bayden and Dylan's upcoming projects, check out the Redshaw Pictures page here too. Give them both a Like while you're at it, go on show some love!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


2 comments:

  1. Nice little write-up... Bayden is a TOP guy!! :D Well Done!!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words and thank you for reading!
      Hickey

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