When a film announces right there under it’s studio logo card that it’s a “no-budget horror”, most people would tend to expect the worst — fans and critics alike. Though it is kinda spooky (and not in the sense we Fellow Fans prefer) when a film leads off with such a de-facto disclaimer, I have to admire the confidence of a filmmaker that will go with that right out front; to me, that says that they have confidence that their story and skills will be enough to make me either not notice the low production value, or not care — well, either that or they just don’t give a rat damn if their work is any good or not.
Checking out Shawn Burkett’s short film The Lamb, which opens in this very way, I have to say that he falls into the former of these two camps.
A young woman, Sarah Combs, awakens in the woods, clothed only in her underwear and splattered with blood; panicked, she rushes blindly through the brush. Here the film cuts to an interrogation room — apparently in the interim, she’s either found help or been found, and is with the police trying to ascertain what happened to her, as it seems she doesn’t recall how she came to be in her predicament. Through questioning, a detective named Matthews tries to help her reconstruct the last forty-eight hours of her life — but his desire isn’t simply philanthropic. It seems that another young woman, Jessica Nobel, was murdered, and Sarah is a person of interest in the case. Dragging out the details, Sarah’s last two days have been rife with some strange occurrences — cryptic phone calls and occult-like rituals fill her memory; but does Matthews’ interest have a greater scope? Why is this case so very important to keep quiet? And exactly what is happening to Sarah during the course of the interrogation?
The “no-budget horror” moniker was accurate; the locations are either exteriors in the woods, in the interrogation room/police station (which could easily be someone’s home, and likely is), and flashbacks to Sarah’s home and a dark locale where the occult rituals take place — all of these could have been shot in the same place. The costumes are acceptable (I mean, just street clothes for the most part, and a few Halloween sale leftover robes in the “cultish” scenes), save for Matthews — he didn’t even have a badge, which would have helped with the suspension of disbelief. However, before this sounds like a total condemnation of the flick, let me say that the story held my interest — it plays out like a one-act murder mystery with supernatural overtones thrown in the mix. It moves along well, the direction economically concise, and the acting was most adequate for the flick; of special note in this case is Payton Krebs as Sarah — she was able to be pitiable at times, seductive at others, and even sinister when the script called for it. Sometimes, she was all three at once — very impressive. Because of the story and performances, and despite the low production value evidenced in the locations and wardrobe (hey, they do warn us right up front!), I found myself absorbed in the tale and curious as to what was going on.
Of course, zero-budget has it’s built-in pitfalls, and this film is no exception — it’s not gonna blow anyone away with it’s glitz and flash, but again, that doesn’t seem to be the intent. If really bare-bones low-budget isn’t your thing (and you know if it is or not), then this likely won’t do anything for you…but if you can get into a story and have no trouble overlooking shortcomings to get to the meat of what a filmmaker is trying to show you, I’d say this one is a good little flick to check out.
Like any proper short, The Lamb kept me guessing, and left me wanting more. It really seemed like an intro to a longer film, and perhaps that’s Burkett’s plan — I’d certainly like to see what happens beyond the rather sudden and quite sinister ending to the film.
Maybe he’s got that in the works — if he does, I’ll certainly be interested in checking it out.
My two pennies on this one.
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