Land of College Prophets, TheReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/16/05 17:47:19
In order to win out over miniscule budgets and digital video that can make even the most accomplished director look like an amateur, independent filmmakers must be prepared to pile on top notch writing, solid storytelling, and, if possible, impressive acting. A smart script is an indie’s first and best line of defense. And for a while, “The Land of College Prophets,” an action-comedy from the Connecticut-based Hale Manor Collective, almost gets it. Its first half hour has enough wit and charm to make up for its unimpressive look. But slowly, that wit begins to slip away, and as the movie begins to lose its edge, the audience begins to lose its interest.“Prophets” sets itself up as a cynical, oddball comic book adventure. Set at a small community college, the movie finds best buds Tommy (Thomas Edward Seymour) and Rye (Philip Guerette) wandering about, starting fights with characters who come with names like “Irish Joe” and “Third Reich Jones.” Tommy wears the shirt and collar of a priest (sleeves cut off), but he is not one himself (his father told him if he dresses like a priest, he will only do good things - advice that didn’t work out). The two enjoy challenging the school security staff and other low level acts of insanity. Imagine a world populated by cartoon characters living humdrum lives, nothing to do.
In the first half hour or so, the plot is as empty and rambling as the characters themselves. But that’s not so bad, since the script comes with enough goofy asides and moments of complete lunacy that we don’t mind the go-nowhere approach. (A running gag about hot dog-eating dolphins is topped by such silly faux-tough lines as “I hope you’re on the pill, ’cause I’m gonna fuck you up!”)
The main story finally rolls around once Tommy discovers that his girlfriend is also sleeping with Rye; the ensuing fight, a brawl to end all brawls, is so nasty that spilled blood and a poorly-picked curse awakens “The Well That Ate Children,” a demon well whose water, when mixed with the town’s drinking supply, turns everyone all evil. Looks like it’s up to Tommy and Rye (plus a few equally cartoonish pals) to battle Third Reich Jones and save the day.
None of it makes a lick of sense, to be sure, but for a while, the nonsense is enjoyable. But then the fun fades away, as the novelty of the premise wears off, and you realize you’re just watching a couple of guys clowning around on camera. Granted, they’re good at clowning around on camera - they sure know how to handle a workable fight scene on a zero dollar budget - but after a while, it just becomes so tiresome. “Prophets” is nothing but novelty, and it’s not a strong enough novelty to sustain a movie as short as this (a brief 82 minutes).
Perhaps the problem comes from behind the scenes. The films is credited as directed by “The Hale Manor Collective,” who, in reality, are Seymour, Guerette, and Mike Aransky (who appears in front of the camera as Lucas George). Having three directors explains the unfocused feel to the project. Maybe they thought the excitement of the goofy characters would win out over any inconsistency in presentation (the only thing that’s constant is the sloppy look, which never rises above “your pal has a video camera”).
Why cast themselves? Budget drawbacks? Or did they just make this movie so they could watch themselves goof off? A handful of supporting players (B-movie vet Carmine Capobianco and Russ Russo, who hams it up as Irish Joe) do well enough to grab our attention and keep us grinning, but as the leads, Seymour and Guerette don’t have the chops. Had they stayed as directors only, casting more worthy talent in their roles, perhaps things would remain more enjoyable through the entire film.I’d give “Prophets” a cautious recommendation only to those seriously interested in underground cinema. You know who you are: you’re always on the lookout for something completely different, you’re willing to forgive cheap production values and shoddy filmmaking as long as things are fun, you’re eager to investigate the hidden cracks of the movie world. If this is you, then perhaps you’ll find enough of interest here to keep you watching. But this is no grand discovery, no lost gem. “Prophets” is a few good ideas tossed into a mediocre homemade movie. The wit on display is promising enough to suggest their next project might have what it takes. But the fact that they can’t sustain that wit for 82 minutes suggests that it’s no harm done if you leave this movie undiscovered.
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