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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kirksdale: 21 Minutes of Great Horror Filmmaking

"When a tormented mental patient escapes the facility, Molly Walker, a misunderstood teenage girl, and Darryl Pearl, a young sheriff's deputy, must face their inner demons in a fight for their sanity...and their lives."

That's the synopsis printed on the back of the screener copy of Kirksdale that director Ryan Spindell was kind enough to send to the Vault--which got me thinking, "How can a story like that be told in such a short time?" After all, the award-winning short subject is what in the old days would've been called a "two-reeler"--no longer than a sitcom episode. But despite my doubts, Spindell gets the job done--and then some.

It would do the movie a disservice to say that it's very good for a film school production. Though produced by the Florida State University College of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts, Kirksdale is just a solid horror flick, period. In less than a half hour, Spindell and his editor Sam Littenberg-Weisberg create more genuine tension and terror than most fright films five times as long.

Spindell and co-writer Bradford Hodgson's tale of a 1960s Florida mental institution taken over by the inmates is engaging from start to finish--although I could've done without the requisite, tired torture porn stuff that inevitably pops up (enough already, people!). The performances and script are mostly very fine, and the warm golden hue created by cinematographer Julie Hotz is a clever juxtaposition to the grim and grisly affair at hand.

Kirksdale was shown last spring at New York's Tribeca Film Festival, but it's a shame that there isn't a more mainstream outlet for short films so that movies like this can get the audience they deserve. With any luck, and if Kirksdale is any indication, Spindell will one day be a successful feature director, and can include Kirksdale as a special feature on some other DVD release. And judging by the fact that Kirksdale was Ryan Spindell's graduate thesis project, I wouldn't bet against it.

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