Film Review: You’ve Just Crossed Over Into the Twilight Zone … of Lawrence

review

Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.

Short Films Presentation. Written and directed by Patrick Rea. Produced by SenoReality Pictures (part of the KC Fringe Festival). Copyright 2010. (Seen July 27, 2010.)

Ever since the original Twilight Zone premiered, twist endings have become harder and harder to do — especially on productions that tote itself as Twilight Zone-style. In today’s world of leaked scripts and message board predictions, it’s hard to have a true ‘twist’ ending.

The Short Films Presentation by SenoReality Pictures is comprised of five short films produced and filmed in Lawrence, Kan., and is described as ‘Twilight Zone-style tales with unexpected twists’. And it’s about even as to whether writer/director Patrick Rea succeeded in ‘unexpected twists’.

Warning: this review contains spoilers for the endings of the movies.

The first film, Next Caller, is about a talk radio show (and the DJ who hosts) in Lawrence, with the topic of the afterlife. And while they definitely get kudos for casting Kevin Willmott as the voice of God, the premise is a bit weak in today’s day of corporate radio. I don’t know how much of it came about because I know DJs, but there were too many times I had a hard time believing this radio show would even exist today (and don’t get me started as to how many FFC fines the station would be paying for the swearing the DJ did ‘ on the air’). It was well-acted, but the ending was a bit over the top.

Next up was Now That You’re Dead, and this was the weakest out of the five. There was no basic premise — the plot twists and turns like a roller coaster. But most of the plot seemed to be the three main characters (a husband, his mistress, and his wife) handing the idiot ball to each other: too many times, I was mentally yelling at the screen, “Why did you do THAT?” None of the characters were sympathetic, and I was actually rooting for all three to be dead by the end of the film. The sound also seemed to be out of whack on this one.

The third in line was the sweet Mrs. Brumett’s Garden, a tale that hit close to home for me with it’s undercurrents of Alzheimer’s disease and the character of Mrs. Brumett (played by Shirley Wagner) believing in (and talking to) fairies. Thankfully, the fairies are real — and I had to smile at her choice to join the fairies at the end, as well as that her son (unlike her husband) was able to believe in them.

Misfortune Smiles, the fourth film out of the batch, was the cute, although predictable, tale of a fake fortune teller (played by Jeff East) who gets the power for real. East’s performance is what sells this tale, as he both experiences the Cassandra effect (a person getting the idea to go somewhere because he was told not to) and the ‘be careful what you wish for’ syndrome (one person’s good future does come true, but ends up costing his life). The ending, however, felt tacked on — as if Rea didn’t quite know how to end it.

Finally, Get Off My Porch was probably my favorite out of the batch (or at least a close tie with Mrs. Brumett’s Garden). The moral — don’t piss off the Girl Scouts … uh, I mean ‘Adventure Scouts’ — was wrapped up in a clever script with some of the best ‘creepy kids’ I’ve seen in a long time. This was definitely a good one to end on, as the humor that peppered it was primarily at the absurdity of the situation.

My only major complaint is that the Fringe schedule had listed this as a 60 minute show, and it lasted for 90 minutes — but it was worth seeing, if for anything else for the number of ‘I know that person’ moments as I watched the films. The films I’ve seen that are locally produced have been a mixed bag, and these were definitely on the good end of the scale. It was definitely worth the trip downtown.

The KC Fringe Festival runs until August 1, 2010. For more information, visit the KC Fringe Festival website.

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