Indie Corner

INDIE CORNER: SPRING 2007

By • Sep 15th, 2007 •

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LITTLE SIN ON THE PRAIRIE

A sin-eater is an outcast of the community who comes out of his cave only at funerals. His job is to eat a small meal that is placed on the dearly departed’s chest. You see, all the dead person’s sins have worked their way out of the body and into the food. The sin-eater eats all the food, and the sin within. Are you eating while I’m telling you this? This allows the dead person to enter heaven without sin.

THE LAST SIN-EATER is the latest film from FoxFaith, the Christian branch of Fox Releasing. It centers on ten-year-old Cadi Forbes (Liana Liberato), whose peaceful life in 1860’s Appalachia is ripped apart when she innocently causes the accidental death of her sister. Feeling horrific guilt, Cadi seeks out the forbidden sin-eater. But, according to the film’s press material “In her quest for redemption… Cadi shows (her community) the truth in Jesus, reminding us that human condition is beyond human remedy.” Occasionally, SIN-EATER has the courage to present dark, disturbing moments, something seldom found in Christian Film-making. Generally, in Christian Film-making, an all too gentle world is presented. Characters, even evil ones like criminals, talk in hushed “put babies to sleep” vocal tones, super clean settings are brightly lit, and of course, violence and sensuality are kept to an almost non-existent low tone. (There are rare exceptions, like Mel Gibson’s ferocious PASSION OF THE CHRIST and DeMille’s “sin before the salvation” requirement for his films) Unfortunately, SIN EATER’s dark moments are whisked away as if somebody is telling director Michael Landon, Jr. “Not too dark, Mike, this is a family movie, not film noir. You better cut in a pretty scene in a log cabin.” (Hey it worked for his dad when he made “Little House”) It’s a rather impressive looking film, a period piece that highlights its wide rural settings. I would love to know how Landon pulled this off for only 2.2 million.

I was watching THE ART OF PASSION, which held me somewhat with it’s tale about a young painter, Arthur Egeli, who struggles with everything from the right light for his painted subjects to what direction his life is going in. In the film, his young, lovely girlfriend, Teresa, models for him, and tries to get him to lighten up. I noticed Teresa was played by Jessica Bryant Flannery, who I auditioned for an unrealized film project in 1994. This is how she looked back then. It dawned on me that this film, due for DVD release in April 2007, was made over 12 years ago. By the way, Jessica and her fellow cast members give very believable performances, while the screenplay and film moved forward like a doped up Stegosaurus! Not all films about artists have to be dog slow. I do hope you’re still out there acting up a storm, Jessica!

The one name actor in the film is Joe Estevez, the younger brother of Martin Sheen and uncle to Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Usually cast as the tough cop in scores of low-budget action films, it was nice to see Joe stretch some acting wings here as an artist. Mr. Estevez now looks like Bill Clinton, while older brother Martin resembles Jack Kennedy. Am I giving casting people weird ideas?

Anyway, I’m going off track. THE ART OF PASSION, being an older title with a new release, gives hope to film-makers with unreleased but sellable films sitting on their shelves. This is also proven with VIDEO VIOLENCE PARTS ONE AND TWO, made twenty years ago. This is one of the releases by Camp Pictures, who are rescuing pioneering SOV horror films from total obscurity. SOV, stands for “Shot On Video”. Back in the late 1980’s, videography was still a bit of an eye-strain. Colors, especially reds and yellows, bled and fuzzed out on the screen. Skin tones came out just awful. There was almost no way you could make a beautiful woman look sensual with video back then. It would seem daring to think of making a whole feature on video during the Big 80’s. The selling point of VIDEO VIOLENCE and the other “Retro-80’s” video horror films re-released by Camp Pictures is not the story, the acting, or the director’s vision. It’s the gore, the bloodshed, the over-the-top carnage, presented in such heaping portions, there’s no way one can get offended or shocked anymore.

The linear notes inside the VIDEO VIOLENCE box contains great, nostalgic recollections of the pre-Blockbuster and Netflix days, of the corner mom and pop video stores. There you could go directly to the store owners to stock your finished film for rental. There was one great story (amongst others) where a mother, with tots in tow, came up to the store clerk with a copy of I DISMEMBER MAMA (a classic gore horror fest from the grindhouse days) and asked “Is there nudity in this film?”

“Not that I remember”, says the clerk, “But it has decapitations and other types of gore.” The mother replies with “Oh, okay. Then the kids can watch it.”

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