Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meet Me There (movie)

Director: Lex Lybrand
Writer: Brandon Stroud
Starring: Lisa Friedrich, Michael Foulk, Dustin Runnels

You might now know because I rarely ever talk about it on here, but I've long been a fan of professional wrestling. I've been watching WWE on and off since 1996. Occasionally it opens a few interesting doors through association. Meet Me There was one of them.

I've followed Brandon Stroud on Twitter for a while, due to enjoying his weekly Best and Worst of Raw columns. It was there I learned of the film. I enjoy a good horror film - which have been in short supply lately - and I didn't have anything planned for that night, so my sister and I decided to go. The lady who owned the room we rented out for the weekend even decided to join us.

Going turned out to be a good decision. It happened to be the premiere, so everyone was in attendance, including Dustin Runnels himself and his father Dusty Rhodes. I started with wrestling at childhood, so The American Dream was before my time, but I'm the sweet spot for having fond memories of Goldust. Meeting the both of them was a highlight. It's not often you get to hang out with wrestling legends. Turns out they're nice people. That goes for everyone involved in the film, actually, from Mr. Stroud to Lisa Friedrich on down.

Everyone - from the cast and crew to the people who came to see the film - hung around outside waiting for the prior film to finish its showing. Sometimes we discussed wrestling, sometimes the movie we were about to watch. Eventually, the audience of the prior film filed out of the small theater and we all made our way inside. We had a movie to watch, after all.

A pretty good one, as it turned out.

After an opening that succeeds in thoroughly unsettling you, we meet our protagonists, Calvin and Ada. Almost immediately - and wordlessly - we see the problem that drives the movie; they're dealing with a lot of sexual frustration and counseling isn't helping. Ada reveals that she cannot remember much of her childhood, something that throws up some obvious red flags and seems like the root of their troubles. Calvin, looking to make some headway, throws out the idea that the two of them drive to her hometown in the hope that it would jog some memories and help them through the situation.

Since we are talking about a horror movie, I don't think you need me to tell you things quickly go directly to hell without passing Go.

A key strength of the film is in the writing. Dialogue in film can feel too neat at times, but going too far in the other direction isn't ideal either; spend too long meandering and you risk losing the audience. Meet Me There manages to find that fine line between the two, giving enough background to the characters to make a connection without boring you to tears. There are moments in the film that are legitimately funny, as well; I audibly laughed a couple of times, especially at the Smurfs story.

They also manage to get some real mileage out of clearly limited resources. The effects are all practical and the feel is that of a B movie, which I mean in the best way possible. Actually, that might not be a hundred percent accurate, either; perhaps it's better to say it reminds you of a seventies horror film, back when most of the greats were made with little money. Speaking of seventies horror films, the film occasionally reminded me of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which isn't a knock; the opening five or six minutes that feel unrelated until late in the film, the murderous rednecks, the entire town seemingly complicit in whatever shenanigans are afoot. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but if that film was an influence, I felt it.

Another positive is the ambiguity surrounding the events depicted in the film. The cast and crew had a Q&A session after the screening and what struck me was that, when asked what the last twenty minutes of the film meant, everyone had a different answer. I even had my own theory - that the town is meant to represent purgatory - which barely resembled any take they had. Not every film can pull something like that off - you risk the audience wondering what they've just seen - but when it works, it's very effective. Films based on the work of Phillip K. Dick like to go this route.

None of this is to say it's perfect. The film had some audio issues worth noting, including a score that felt unnecessarily loud; on more than one occasion I found I had difficulty making sense of the dialogue because of it, a problem my sister seemed to share. I think I recall the director mentioning that it had something to do with the audio mix not meshing properly with the theaters equipment - and that it wouldn't be a problem going forward - but even so, I can only go by my own experience.

There were a couple of points where the delivery faltered a bit, too. It wasn't anything major and the cast still managed to make the characters feel real, but occasionally a moment would have an iffy reaction that was a little jarring. It's forgivable - the film certainly has a leg up on most low budget horror films in that there's infinitely less ham and cheese in the acting - but it would feel wrong not to mention it.

That said, any trouble is easily balanced by Dustin Rhodes turn as the preacher and the lady playing his not-all-there daughter. Both were highlights. The daughter might have been the creepiest part of a film that had a lot of satanic imagery, some super xenophobic hillbillies with shotguns and a cultish orgy in the woods.

All told, it's well worth attending. It's easily the best the horror genre has given us in a while using a fraction of the resources. I had a lot of fun, got to hang out with some cool people and generally had a memorable night in what turned out to be a memorable weekend. There's obviously no guarantee you'll get to hang out with a Rhodes or crew member, but at worst you'll get to see a pretty good film.

You can't exactly catch it in your local theater, though. You can check the official website for screenings. DVD copies are, thus far, only available to the people who backed the indiegogo campaign, but when asked I've been told they're hoping to get distribution. If and when they do, I'll update this.

My Opinion: Watch It

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