Making the transition from shorts to features can inspire and challenge a storyteller. It can unleash brilliant long-form ideas that may have lay dormant in their minds, but it can also expose weaknesses in their abilities that would likely go unnoticed in smaller doses. With that in mind, I would like to focus on two full length films that have come about from two of my favorite filmmakers that I found on Youtube.
KILL ME NOW
Michael Swaim and his production company (Those Aren’t Muskets) is best known for his work on Cracked.com. I’ve been a fan of his work since the days of Agents of Cracked and have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Swaim and several of my favorites actors from his short films.
“Kill Me Now” is written by Michael and lists Those Aren’t Muskets as one of the production companies in the credits. Several of Swaim’s collaborators show up in various roles throughout the movie, including Kaitlin Large, Katie Stoll, Nick Mundy, Daniel Rubiano, Katie Willert, and Lisa Marie King. Daniel O’Brien makes two brief cameos as well. The film also stars Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney (both current Saturday Night Live cast members), Jacob Reed (Piranha 3D), and Brett Fancy (Outpost and Lost Christmas).
The film’s basic plot is one you are probably familiar with. It’s a horror movie that centers around a teen party that takes place in a secluded cabin in the woods. In some ways, it’s not much more complicated than that, but there are so many unexpected things that happen that I can’t say it’s a by-the-numbers slasher flick. It’s not for several reasons, but there are two major areas that I would like to focus my commentary.
The first important thing here are the characters. Swaim plays the classic Swaim role of the irresponsible party-boy, and it feels like every part is carefully written to fit each actors’ strengths. You can tell that a lot of work went into this script, and the dialogue shines under Swaim’s polish. Each of the characters is interesting and fun to watch. This is admittedly kind of a weird thing to say, but when the lights go out in the cabin and everyone starts to panic, the thought that went through my mind was, “This is as close as we’ll ever get to a Muppet horror movie.”
I say that in the nicest possible way.
The second area where this differs from a standard horror movie is unfortunately a bit of a negative. The small budget is felt in the big moments. The crashes and slashes don’t play well. Not because they are off camera – a lot of films have benefited greatly from allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in those moments – but rather because the production didn’t seem as interested delivering those set-piece moments as it was in the delivery of the one-liners.
Overall, this is quite an enjoyable movie with surprises and great performances. It’s the same vein as “Scream” and “Cabin in the Woods,” but while those two could satisfy both the audience that was in for the satire and the horror crowd, “Kill Me Now” is aimed straight for the funny bone.
You can watch the movie here.
ANGRY VIDEO GAME NERD: THE MOVIE
The Angry Video Game Nerd has been a mainstay on Youtube since. . . Well, since Youtube. But before that, James Rolfe (the nerd) and his production company (Cinemassacre) were busy working on film projects. In fact, James started making movies as a kid, and throughout the years, he’s developed some rather impressive skills for stretching a budget, even if his effects are – as Rolfe puts it – intentionally made to look a little fake.
Rolfe’s idea is that if you can see how the effects are done that you will have more of an appreciation for them, and since the titular character is overtly retro (on gag involves the use of a record player in lieu of a car radio), the pre-CGI vibe works perfectly for this movie.
In many ways, AVGN suffers in areas where Kill Me Now thrives and is competent where the latter struggles. Basically, the big set piece moments are thrilling, but the film would have benefited from better writing. Truly, if we could combine the powers of Rolfe and Swaim, what we’d end up with would be something truly special.
But since that’s off point. . .
AVGN stars Rolfe, Jeremy Suarez (The Bernie Mac Show), and Sarah Glendening (All My Children). Since the web series on which the film is based centers around reviews of bad old school games, the catalyst of the action was wisely set up to force the Nerd into digging up (pun) what legend holds as the worst video game of all time.
If the movie had merely been a long version of one of the episodes, it wouldn’t have worked at all. Instead, AVGN is more about the twists and turns and set backs the characters must face before they can do the actual review (which happens in the final credits – spoiler, I guess). Those obstacles include aliens, death robots, a carnival filled with zombies, a video game level come to life, and a giant monster that destroys Las Vegas. In all of it, Rolfe’s love for classic cinema is on full display.
My final thoughts mostly circle around how impressed I am by what James was able to accomplish with such a limited budget. Having made films myself, I was absolutely blown away by how much he managed to ring out of every dollar. From the high profile cameo to the Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead) soundtrack, this movie is truly a labor of love, and as a testament to the twelve plus years that The Angry Video Game Nerd has been entertaining us, much of that labor and love came from its fans (Kickstarter contributors, McCreary, etc). In the end, this movie is a love letter to those fans, and I really don’t think the movie will play well to anyone else.
You can watch the movie here.