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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

If I Am Your Mirror (2012) review


Larry Holden (The Soldier), Bill Pacer (The Old Man)

Directed by Garrett DeHart

The Short Version: This bleak short production contains more passion in its approximately 20 minute running time than many full length features. It's shot in an innovative style emulating a living, breathing oil painting brought to macabre life. It's inspired by Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and recalls a handful of likewise dark sources. Its success lies not just in how it was put together by a group of dedicated artists, but also in the ambiguity of its execution -- the bridge where madness and nightmares meet.

Sometime after the Civil War is over, a disturbed man rots away in prison awaiting his date with death at the end of a rope. His last hours are made up of nightmarish recollections of the battlefield, the death of his wife, and images of a sinister street preacher with a piercingly evil eye.

From the opening frames to the closing moments of this unsettlingly grim, rotoscopically animated horror short, the viewer is plummeted straight to hell in a riveting 20 minute cavalcade of disturbing imagery and cacophonic sounds of doom-laden resonance.

Garrett DeHart's thesis project is a fiercely passionate piece of horror filmmaking that recalls a fair number of ghoulish iconography -- everything from its 'Tell-Tale Heart' Poe inspiration to the macabre oil paintings of NIGHT GALLERY and on down to a Gothic ambiance by way of Tim Burton. There were also moments during this 20 minute nightmare where I was reminded of baroque art decor from various other films and even video games such as the 19th century set occult horror title, 'Nightmare Creatures'.

DeHart's passion project is made all the more exemplar in the fact that it was financed for $5,000 with some of the crew (including the late actor Larry Holden, who passed away February 13th, 2011 from cancer) performing their duties essentially out of devotion to the production. Furthering this sentiment, the makers have bypassed festivals, opting instead to pass the film along via online sources like youtube; this to drum up interest not just via public viewership, but for possible professional endeavors for the future. It's quite the gamble, and one that hopefully will pay off handsomely for those involved.

Garrett not only directed the film, but he also co-wrote it, edited it and performed the graphics animation; all of which spanned a two year time period. There's an undeniable air of professionalism in every aspect of this horror story from the acting, to its design and the striking, almost monochromatic visuals accentuated by splashes of bloody reds amidst an apocalyptic landscape. This polished sheen extends to the phenomenal photography, the sound design, the spooky score and effects work.

The late Larry Holden (whom you may remember from BATMAN BEGINS, INSOMNIA and MEMENTO) plays the tortured soul to the hilt in this expressive performance that, like much of the running time, contains little in the way of dialog. This is more 'sights and sounds' as opposed to dialog exchanges. The few lines uttered are done so with a doom-laden tone that drives the basic narrative. 

The opening minutes reveal The Soldier (he isn't given a name; yet another device driving home the dark dream-like quality) to be an unhinged, deeply disturbed man. The war has obviously damaged him in a way that could just as easily parallel the trauma of Vietnam or the battles fought by those in the Middle East. Aboard a train, a small boy points a toy gun at him to which he responds with a vicious smack to the childs head.

Upon disembarking the train car, The soldier is haunted by a sinister, one-eyed street preacher. It's as if this old man has the power of clairvoyance. We see images of a dead wife and a burning home. Did The Soldier murder his wife and burn his home to the ground as a result of the cataclysmic damage wrought by the battlefield? If so, does this baleful elder sense the disturbed nature of this ex-military man? We're not given clear answers, save for one -- that The Soldier kills The Old Man (played with a profound eeriness by Bill Pacer) resulting in his subsequent time in a dungeon, beaten by his captives, and left to reflect -- in the most disturbing imagery imaginable -- how he got there.

No one we see in this ash-stained wasteland are too far removed from the savagery of a scourge or beyond the criminality perpetuated by the unnamed Soldier. Only the wife bears any sign of angelic life; a life that's snuffed out visually from a few different perspectives courtesy of the twisted, fractured mind of The Soldier, her significant other. We're not sure if she's become a casualty of war, or that of her husband. Considering the tone of the picture, the latter seems the likely choice.

Brilliant in its conception, design and execution, IF I AM YOUR MIRROR shows just what ingenuity can do with extremely limited means and devout dedication to a project. This ingenuity lives within the darkly creative recesses of director Garrett DeHart, his crew and performers that successfully bring a canvas of ghastly imagery to vivid life.

You can watch IF I AM YOUR MIRROR by clicking HERE


Franco Macabro said...

This looks awesome, I will be watching it as soon as I get home from work, looking forward to it!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the thoughtful review.
Please LIKE the film on Facebook and help spread the word. We're trying to get the film out on our own.

venoms5 said...

@ Fran: This is right up your alley, Fran. I am positive you will thoroughly enjoy this.

@ Garrett: I have done just that, and congratulations to you and those that worked on such a marvelous project. It is really an impressive piece of work.

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