I was offered by Scott Lyus to do a review of his latest indie short film and I'm more than happy to oblige.
ORDER OF THE RAM (2013)
Order of the Ram is a 16-minute horror short film that tells the story of Mary, a girl that finds herself tied up in a dense wood, and face to face with a satanic cult intent on calling upon their Master by whatever means possible.
I'll be honest (I always am), the acting is bad. Not once was I convinced that Mary was terrified, nor was I scared by Mother and her followers. While Mary at least was okay in some scenes, Mother is as stiff as a wooden plank. It looks like she's reciting a paragraph from a history book. Her dialogue was cringe-worthy, and her expressions are irksome.
This film is not without merit though, there are shots that I love such as the woods scene (shoes, cigarette, guy) and I do think that the director has vision and potential. I recognize the kind of horror Lyus is trying to project - real horror, which is scarier. I think we have enough of zombies, vampires, and psycho killers hacking & slicing up screaming humans in our current film trend, and Lyus trying to create old school kind of horror films is very much appreciated. I love old horror movies!
The cinematography is also good, but I wish it could have been darker to suit the mood of a satanic cult-themed film. It felt too neat. The movie also lacked tension that's seen in good horror films (a perfect example is the "Lewton Bus" scene in the 1942 Cat People by Tourneur. Now that's a great heart attack-inducer!). I think if the script was more polished (it was stilted that it affects the balance of tension and fear) and the acting believable, this would have been an effective film. I also think that we could do less of the "Mary in school" shots and focused more on the Order, that way it will builds up more tension up to the climax. Since this film isn't character-driven, the director could have delved deeper on the Order plot, hence, taking away scenes were Mother has to explain to Mary why this or why that - smoothing out the dialogue and the flow of the movie in the process.
"She will writhe and die.... She is dying... Our lord, she is dead!"
Maybe if the chanting scene was shot through Mary's POV (SPOILERS: up until she finally dies, and closes her eyes) it could have been more unsettling. The ending, I wasn't sure how to interpret it. It left me wanting more. Why did Mother abruptly leave after staring at the fire? Basing from what I did see, I guess after (SPOILERS) Mother killed Mary, nothing happened. No God/Satan came to their presence. And that's where the real horror lies. People's twisted/extreme beliefs that muddle their concept of right & wrong. Blinded by religion, intent on following everything they read in religious books that they forget how to be human first and foremost. Now that's terrifying.
Despite the film's lack of something, an impact perhaps, I recognize the efforts put into this little project. And I'm hoping to see Scott Lyus make more films, maybe taking into consideration some of my observations. I'm not a film director and I admit I could never be one, but as a viewer, I know what I want and I feel whether a movie is effective or not - so I hope this little review can be of help. I want to see more stuff like this, but hopefully with a better script & acting. :)
My Rating: 2/5 - second half dragged the movie down.
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