Monday, June 21, 2010

Golden Earrings (2010)

Golden Earrings is the debut feature-length film from first-time filmmaker Marion Kerr. I had been looking forward to Golden Earrings ever since I heard that it would be screening at Dances with Films Festival this June. As a strong supporter of seeing more women in horror, especially behind the camera, I was pleased as punch to see that Kerr not only handled both writing and directing duties in the film, but also starred in it! That is the kind of hardworking filmmaker I like to see in indie films! Not only that, but the film is very well done!

One night, a group of L.A. friends gather in an apartment to send off their friend Sara (played by writer/director Marion Kerr). Sara is heading to her parents’ house for the weekend after having a nasty fight with her boyfriend. Her best friend and roommate, Ronnie (Julia Marchese), is especially concerned for Sara, but everyone convinces her Sara is fine and not to worry. Sara leaves and Ronnie along with friends Fay (Lauren Mora), Julian (John T. Woods), Jack (Teddy Goldsmith) and Alex (Anthony Dimaano) continue to hang out.

Later that evening, Ronnie convinces everyone to mess around with a Ouija board, but they appear to make contact with a spirit that died that very evening in a car crash named S-A-R…well, Ronnie chucks the Ouija board before the spirit can finish spelling, but you get the idea. Everyone is understandably upset, most of all Ronnie, who insists that someone is playing a trick and kicks everyone out after they deny any involvement.

The next day, Sara’s mother calls saying Sara never showed up at home and can’t be reached on her cell. Over the next few days, Sara’s friends are fraught with worry, wondering what could have happened. Hit hardest is Ronnie, who slowly comes undone when she considers the possibility that Sara might be gone forever.

Eventually Ronnie starts to experience supernatural elements in the apartment. An old record plays in Sara’s room, objects move, doors close, drawers open…all signifying to Ronnie that Sara has returned to the apartment.

Golden Earrings is more of a drama/thriller film than straight-up horror, but it is a very nuanced, “grown-up” film. Watching it, it’s hard to believe that this is Kerr’s first film since everything is so tight and focused. It looks absolutely fantastic and immediately sucked me into its story.

The first things that really struck me were the stellar acting and writing. When we first meet the group of friends the dialogue is playful and witty, really drawing us into the story and making us care for the characters. Additionally, this engaging writing is coupled with some amazingly realistic performances by all involved. THESE are the kind of actors indie productions should strive to use! Each and every one of the actors was very natural, very believable and very likable. Of extra special mention is Julia Marchese as Ronnie. She gives an awe-inspiring performance as Ronnie. Her character not only faces jealousy, love, loss, alienation, loneliness and guilt, but she also faces being haunted and friends who simply doubt her and blame her “visions” on her ego. Marchese lets all these tumultuous emotions and experiences express themselves in her body language and facial expressions, but has the ability to reign them in, resulting in a nuanced performance instead of one that’s over the top. Her performance is subtle, but so good that you can see her character’s cracks and manic energy just starting to surface in the beginning of the film. When her emotions let loose it is an intense experience, resulting in a lot of suspense for the rest of the film.

I also enjoyed the film’s story. Even though Kerr opens the film with a dialogue-heavy scene and nothing much happens for the first 30 minutes, I was still enthralled by the likable characters and clever dialogue. Good writing really goes a long way, remember that indie filmmakers! Once the film picks up steam, Kerr adds some surprising twists and turns that not only make sense but also add even more depth to the film. The film may start off as straightforward, but the ending certainly threw me for a loop!

I also appreciated how Kerr kept it simple effects-wise. The haunting scenes were appropriately creepy without having to resort to cheap gimmicks, tons of fake-looking CGI or cheesy special FX makeup that would have taken away from the sophisticated feel of the story. Keeping it simple certainly proved effective and added to the overall “grown-up” feel of this psychological thriller.

My only tiny complaint is that some of the camerawork is a bit amateurish. This only happens in the first few scenes of the film, though, when some shots are a little wobbly, but thankfully doesn’t happen for most of the film. I also thought the name of the film was a bit mystifying (unless I missed something in the film alluding to the significance of “golden earrings”…anyone want to enlighten me?). However, neither of these small quibbles affected my overall enjoyment of the intense experience that was Marion Kerr’s Golden Earrings.

This is how indie filmmaking SHOULD be done!

Visit Golden Earrings’ Official Site!

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