Experimental Film Worth A View ... If You Like Experimental Film, That Is
Mar 14, 2014
Given how many production companies big and small as well as wannabe media mavens presently occupy planet Earth, I suspect that it’s really quite difficult to come up with something that feels not only fresh and original but also exciting and riveting in film. As I’m sure any of us who’ve watched movies could confess, more flicks derail somewhere in the creative process than ever break through wealth “content” screening daily on billions of TV and movie channels. For all its blemishes (and, yes, there are plenty), there’s still something mildly interesting about UNCUT. Maybe it doesn’t quite fit the bill for what the average viewer finds entertaining, but is there anything wrong with not conforming to the average viewer’s standards?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
After the curtain falls on their final performance, a theatre group holds their wrap party in the basement of the old Victorian venue they failed to ‘put butts in the seats of’ regularly. Not long after their merriment begins, one of the players vanishes only to turn up later: apparently, a knife-wielding killer is loose within the locked building with them. Before the night is over, they’ll discover how strong their relationships are as alliances are built and destroyed when the body count continues to mount.
I’m going to sacrifice my usual discussion of the acting talent not because no one really distinguished himself or herself her but because, in my humble opinion, this clearly was an ensemble’s attempt to do something different: namely, they set out to craft a thriller in a single ambitious take. I think it’s safe to say that everyone in here, at best, maybe had a moment or two to shore up their acting resume, show some spunk, etc. It’s just that no one really did anything that critically elevated the entirety of the piece, so I’ll leave that topic alone.
Instead, I’ll say this about the feature: it’s interesting. I’ve seen a handful of short films do the same thing – build a story around a continuous take – but UNCUT clearly raised the stakes by spreading out the action in an elderly theatre with three floors … and, yes, they made use of every floor. The audience is taken on a virtual tour of the place – every nook and cranny – so much so that the building becomes for all intents and purposes one more character in the story.
It’s the story that, frankly, wasn’t all that interesting.
Some of this had to do with sub-par lighting. There are a handful of sequences that take place in dark corridors or sparsely lit areas, and that never serves any picture. Also, there are a few sequences wherein the audio work is flat-out atrocious. I couldn’t quite tell who was saying what, nor did what they have to say contribute to the labyrinthine plot. However, these detriments truly lowered my enjoyment of UNCUT because, on one level, I’m always willing to embrace anything that’s done experimentally. Unfortunately, I have to follow the story in order to have any emotional investment with these players, and that was not as possible as I would’ve preferred.
What honestly might prove more interesting would be if the same creative players – cast and crew – re-assembled for the purposes of crafting UNCUT’s kinda/sorta slasher story into a more conventional film (one with cuts, recognizable sound work continuously, and a better continuity person). It would be fascinating to see if in the same amount of screen time they could turn this into something that better served the narrative; then the two pictures would indeed be an intriguing double-bill. Who knows? It might even help audiences understand better how stories ‘tick.’ Certainly, it wouldn’t’ hurt this experience.
Because I love film, I’m willing to give anyone an extra star solely for the sake of watching the experiment, seeing how it all turned out, etc. That said, UNCUT is fine and dandy as an experiment. Is it a good film? No. Is there any reason to see it other than the fact that it’s an experiment? No, not so much as I can tell (I’m not critical professional, nor do I play one on TV!). Would you recommend UNCUT to any audience? Sure, I think film students and/or film aficionados like myself wouldn’t have any problem with a single viewing … but to the masses-at-large? No. No way. Not gonna happen.
UNCUT (aka SINISTER THEATRE) is produced by Eagle One Media, Philip West, and Elzemieke De Tiege. (The product packaging gives me reason to suspect that Greenarce Films may’ve also been a participant in some fashion.) DVD distribution is being handled by Eagle One Media. As for the technical specifications? Blech! The very nature of experimental filmmaking sometimes stacks the decks against the behind-the-scenes personnel, and the fact that this thing was apparently shot in one take there’s more than a handful of just plain awful sights and sounds. Lastly, if it’s special features you want, then you can look forward to only some behind-the-scenes photos and the theatrical trailer.
RECOMMENDED only if you’re truly all that interested in watching a single-take motion picture for the purposes of study because otherwise there’s just nothing all that interesting, exciting, or memorable to UNCUT (aka SINISTER THEATRE). I can certainly appreciate the technical wizardry that undoubtedly went into making all of this cinematically possible; I just wish it had a compelling story and stimulating performances and coherent characters behind it. I guess you can’t have everything in one seamless experience, now can you?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Eagle One Media provided me with a DVD copy of UNCUT by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.