Indie filmmaking, above most things, requires passion — we all probably realize that. An indie crew will have a firm vision of what they want their film to be, and they have all the desire in the world to make it so. What a lot of people don’t think about, however, is that the sad reality of the indie world is that these filmmakers have to be prepared to let a lot of that vision go — either it costs too much, their equipment isn’t capable of doing what they envision, or they just can’t simply come up with the resources to do it the way they saw it in their minds sitting around the pre-production table. Instead, the good ones rally what resources they do have, and make the absolute most of them. This is really obvious in good independent films (yes, there is a major distinction between folks with the aforementioned passion and folks just trying to grab a buck), and you Fellow Fans out there know what I mean — you may find some shortcomings in a no-to-low budget, self-financed flick, but when it’s evident that the filmmakers put a lot of work and desire into it, you likely find that you either really don’t care about the flaws, or are at least willing to overlook them.
Case in point is a 2014 film from Mark Dossett that I’ve had the pleasure to check out, an homage of sorts to the horror of the 1980s, The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom.
Back in the early ’80s, in your typical small town, Florida, USA, the goings-on in and about are pretty much what they always are — local young people work the grocery store, the town mechanic and sheriff are old friends, and the waitress at the area diner knows everyone by name. There’s been a matter of a missing girl, but most of the fire has gone out of the case, and though not forgotten, it’s not the hot topic that it was a little while ago. On the outskirts of town, Laurie Ann Cullom is living in her mom’s house, feeling a bit constrained in the situation but not really having a lot of options.
You see, Laurie is a clinical agoraphobic, and just stepping out onto the porch sends her into a state of near-hysterical terror. Mom is away on a business trip, and Laurie is making the best she can of her near prison-like existence, watching cartoons, eating cereal, and rocking out to some music on occasion. However, all isn’t fun and games, as she begins noticing strange happenings in the house — lights get turned on that she’s sure she turned off, there are odd noises in the house, and at times she just feels like she’s not alone. On the phone from her trip, mom just attributes Laurie’s jitters to her isolation and imagination, but she nonetheless calls and asks the sheriff to check in on her, and he agrees to do so. What’s going on at the Cullom residence, however, is anything but Laurie’s imagination, and before all is said and done both she and the town will be forever associated with a ghastly and heartbreaking urban legend…
Let me start with the shortcomings: at the outset, some of the supporting cast come off a little weak, and a lot of low-angles at first seem to be repetitive. There’s several instances of conversation that add up to little more than filler, and I picked up on one rather obvious anachronism for the time period in which the film is set. Finally, although the dynamic of which fear is greater — Laurie’s agoraphobic fear of the outside world, or fear of what’s inside with her — is there, it’s not really developed or capitalized on as it could have been.
Now, I’ll go on to say that to my eyes, none of that mattered a lick. What came out was a story that, while not the most original I’ve seen (it does pay tribute to the films it emulates, after all), still had enough of a new spin that it kept my interest — blending supernatural elements and slasher flick tropes, it keeps you guessing, and there are some genuinely spooky moments to be had. It’s shot extremely well with some very creative set-ups, and boasts a lead performance (on which the whole production really rests) that is absolutely fantastic. The choices of angles and lighting lend themselves to making we the audience really feel the isolation and fear of the protagonist, and those low-angles that I mentioned show enough to make you wonder but not enough to know what’s going on…clever, if a little repetitive.
Shannon Scott, in the titular role of Lauren, really shines in her performance, going through shades of boredom early on, her difficulty with her agoraphobia, and later the stark terror she experiences — all done with the aplomb of a seasoned pro. It’s difficult to believe that this is her first feature.
Lest you wonder why I’m not spending much time talking about other actors, let me just throw out there that the lion’s share of this film was made with just TWO people — Mark Dossett, the writer/director of the film, is also a producer, production designer, cinematographer, and actor playing multiple roles! Miss Scott also double and triples down with multiple roles, both in front of and behind the camera…I even saw her listed as a driver! Of course, there were other people involved, and their contributions made the film possible, taking it to levels that just two certainly could not have, but still, the realization that two individuals took so much on their plates to get this film on screen is damned impressive. Herein is where the real spirit of independent film shines through — here’s a small group of folks, completely dedicated to their vision, pulling out all the stops and using everything they have to turn out the best quality product they can muster. In this case, they pulled it off with a lot of skill in all areas, and that passion that I mentioned pulls it all together into something much more than the sum of its parts. All of this comes in a package with a healthy reverence of the genre…look for the nods to Halloween and Jaws that are in the flick!
Of course, it’s not going to ring everyone’s bells — it does have those low-budget shortcomings that I mentioned before; but I easily put that aside, and found the film very entertaining — it’s also one hell of a calling card for the passion and creativity of those involved in it’s production. Click the link below to check out the film on VHX and support these folks, Fellow Fans…these are names you’ll hear again.
Two tenths of a dime,
CLICK HERE TO RENT/BUY THE TORMENT OF LAURIE CULLOM ,– THREE BUCKS TO CHECK OUT A GREAT INDIE FILM, AND SUPPORT INDIE HORROR!!
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