Friday, October 1, 2010

Walking Distance (2010)

Ever since I first saw Mel House’s Closet Space a few years ago, I’ve eagerly anticipated his next project. Though Closet Space had its flaws, its story was engaging and despite its low budget it had rather impressive special FX. The unique story and effects work made Closet Space a memorable viewing experience and really made me sit up and take notice of “Texas Blood” filmmaker Mel House.

Now, a couple years later, House has completed Walking Distance, a film I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I first heard about it. Like Closet Space, House has written and directed the film, as well as picking up a slew of other duties (producing, editing, etc. – even making a cameo in the film). Would House be as successful with Walking Distance as he was with Closet Space? Read on to find out!

The plot to Walking Distance is very complex and so ambitious it’s hard to describe in detail without taking up a few pages. So, I’ll just give you the official synopsis, found on the Walking Distance website:

“An idyllic, small, self-sufficient community. On the surface, it seems like the perfect neighborhood. Everything you could possibly need is within walking distance. But…the pastoral exterior conceals a dark past and an even darker secret. As a group of individuals – each with their own ties and agendas with the town and each other-converges on the enclave, strange things begin to happen. Very strange things. Strange enough to test – and then break – the very fabric of reality itself.

Walking Distance really shows Mel House’s growth as a filmmaker. Technically, it looks absolutely fantastic. It still has a slightly low-budget look, but it’s much slicker and professional-looking than Closet Space. It also has a much larger cast with recognizable names (Adrienne King, Debbie Rochon, Reggie Bannister, Shannon Lark, Peyton Wetzel, Katie Featherston) and a more complex storyline.

This complex storyline is the film’s one big flaw. House tries to cram so many different backstories, so much character development, so many ideas into the nearly two-hour-long film that I felt a bit overwhelmed. This is a commendable flaw, however. I’d much rather a film attempt more character and story development than none at all! Still, there were so many ideas crammed into Walking Distance that you don’t really get a chance to take a breath, so to speak. I feel like some of the characters didn’t have any real purpose (the activists, for example), because towards they end they just ended up dying anyway. And the multitude of characters robbed me a chance of really rooting for anyone.

Despite the film being overcrowded with ideas, overall it was a positive experience. The acting was quite good from all involved and it was a pleasure seeing familiar faces! For example, we get Reggie Bannister as a pedophile, Adrienne King as an executive for an evil corporation, Debbie Rochon as an abusive mother, Shannon Lark as an activist against the evil corporation and even Katie Featherston (Paranormal Activity) as the lead’s girlfriend. Speaking of the lead, Denton Blane Everett did a fantastic job in his role of Cole Gray. In fact, I can’t really say there was one bad actor in the large cast, quite an achievement for a low-budget film!

Also impressive were the special FX, again handled by Marcus Koch of Oddtopsy FX. There are liquefied remains, people on fire, people melting into each other – pretty much the stuff of nightmares! And it all looks fantastic. My favorite scene is one in which the characters of  are sitting naked in a bathtub full of blood and their skin is sticking and melting together. Very impressive and freaky stuff here! Not to mention the main monsters in the film, who are people that look like they’ve been to Hell and back, complete with black, charred skin that is still on fire in parts. These mysterious entities appear and disappear, leaving a trail of liquefied bodies (or in some cases, no bodies) in their wake. These creatures look very creepy and when their existence is explained, it all makes sense!

Lastly, we have the fantastic story. Though it is crammed full of ideas, making it beneficial to watch the film more than once to fully absorb them all, the story is extremely unique. I love the different avenues of horror Mel House likes to explore and Walking Distance is no different. This is definitely an intelligent horror film and the kind of quality film that horror fans deserve!

Walking Distance is a huge step for indie filmmaker Mel House…it shows his amazing growth as a filmmaker and reaffirms my belief that he is definitely one of the top indie filmmakers to watch!

Walking Distance is making the festival rounds right now, so for more info on screenings and its DVD release, please visit its Official Site!

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