Wednesday, 1 July 2015


Some of you may remember my April review of a bleak and grim crime thriller by the name of A Way Out. It was something of a departure for Hickey's House of Horrors, but I absolutely loved it.
Now that short's director, the very talented Jason Tostevin has co-written another short thriller that investigates the darkness within men's hearts and their relationships, Mike McNeese's I Owe You.
Much like A Way Out, I Owe You has been going down a storm at festivals and has scooped plenty of selections and awards. 
Interested? You should be!

I OWE YOU (2015)

Dir: Mike McNeese
Starring: Brian Spangler, Trista Caruso Sudy, Johnny DiLoretto, Elizabeth McPherson, Tiffany Arnold, Patrick Walters, Franklin Grace

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short, so I'll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

Father-to-be Cam (Spangler) is living a blissful suburban life with his doting wife Diane (Sudy). However, one fateful night he receives a phone call from an estranged friend he hasn't seen in five long years, Todd (DiLoretto). Sworn to secrecy by Todd, Cam slips out to meet him and discovers a nervous and desperate Todd waiting in the cold night.
After an awkward reunion, Todd reveals that he needs Cam's help. Having covered for Cam's infidelity in the past, Todd says that Cam owes him assistance with his own problem.
Then Todd reveals what he has stowed away in his car...
Faced with a terrible decision, Cam's guilt will weigh heavily on him either way: turn away a man who saved your skin and then lost the love of his life to you or commit an act that could well swallow your soul?

WHY IT WORKS: I Owe You does a lot with its 13 minute runtime. It packs a twisted plot in without ever feeling rushed, and tells a very compelling story. The themes of debt and guilt are ones that we will all be familiar with, while the slow reveal and almost clinical dissection of the damaged friendship at the film's heart hits on a surprisingly emotional level. 
Some of you may question my decision to review this short on a horror blog, after all this isn't a traditional horror tale by any stretch. There are no monsters, no chainsaw wielding masked slashers, no walking dead and very little in the way of death and destruction. But that isn't seeing the bigger picture — this is a film about the destruction of lives, both physically and emotionally. It's a story that is all the more horrifying precisely because it isn't one that takes place in the fantastical realms of vampires, ghost and ghouls — it is one that could happen today and tear real families apart. With that in mind, I can think of few horrors as frightening.
For these reasons, the story, written by Randall Greenland and Tostevin is one of I Owe You's strongest points. It has an interesting dilemma at its core and the film takes the time to fully explore this, devoting a hefty chunk of its narrative to exploring the consequences of Cam's decision. With a lot of dialogue to help tell a fairly rich backstory, it is a credit to both the writers and the cast that none of these often exposition-heavy lines ever feel forced or unnatural.
Speaking of the cast, they are all excellent. At the centre of the story we have our two male leads — Spangler as the guilt-ridden Cam and DiLoretto as the embittered Todd. These are two distinctly different characters but both are superb.
Spangler's performance positively resonates with a tortured self-reproach, it's truly impressive work from a very talented actor. He's a likeable guy and his everyman character works as a good lead for the audience to identify with. He is in every scene for the entirety of the short and he shoulders this burden admirably.
Spangler has already won several awards for his work here and they are well-deserved. I shall certainly be looking out for more from him in the future.
DiLoretto on the other hand has significantly less screentime than Spangler (with two of his key scenes coming as just a disembodied voice on the end of a phone) but he bristles with a seething resentment and desperation each time he does appear. Imbuing Todd with a furtive energy, DiLoretto is a real force to be reckoned with. He's given some of the best lines and he delivers them with aplomb. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the aforementioned telephone calls. Much like Brant Jones' Conway in A Way Out, his inflection, intonation and timing are impeccable. Kudos, sir!
Of the remaining characters, Sudy's Diane has the most to do. She's an assured, capable actress who handles her role excellently. She doesn't have much screen time to be honest, but she does a good job with what she has, which is all we can ask of her.
Of course a strong cast and decent story aren't always enough to ensure that a film hits the spot — no, for this to be the case the director absolutely has to deliver the goods. Thankfully, McNeese most certainly knows his way around a camera. Having served as cinematographer on A Way Out, I already suspected that McNeese would have a good eye for film and these suspicions were confirmed. 
From the pacing of the story to the framing of each shot, the film looks professional with some decent production values on display. Ably assisted by cinematographer Torin Scott and A Way Out editor Brant Jones, McNeese has created a film that doesn't just deliver a compelling and comprehendible story but one that looks fantastic while it does so. 
With the two titles I've reviewed thus far, Hands Off Productions have earned a fan here at the house — I can't wait to see what else they have in store for us.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? Like I said before, I Owe You is still doing extremely well on the festival circuit, both in the States and overseas. To find out when the short will be coming to a screen near you, check out the film's Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, show some support!

10 WORD WRAP UP: Hands Off Productions delivers another stellar crime thriller with heart

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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