Short Film Review: AMERICAN REVENANT Is A Tale Of Mayhem In Missouri

March 30, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

The place is Hannibal, Missouri. The time, shortly after humanity has been stuffed into a hand basket and sent off to hell. A little thing we recognize from popular culture, known as the zombie apocalypse, looks to have finally plunged the world into chaos. The goal for anyone left standing – survival. Well… perhaps not JUST standing, but anyone left standing while also living and breathing.  But as one may suspect, the living are just as big a threat during such a catastrophic event as the living.
Two different story lines illustrate how some of residents of this Missouri town intend to remain amongst the living during this societal downfall. One features a group of survivors have hatched out a plan to move on in hopes of finding someplace safer to re-settle. But in order to gain safer passage potential threats must be redirected out of their way. In the other story, a mother and her young daughter find themselves fleeing their home as it’s overrun by a swarm of the living, walking, zombie undead. They are now on the run, dodging both undead and actual living threats in the dark of night.
This short film was directed by Josh Mullner who co-wrote the script with John L. Davis IV, and is based in part on Davis’s novella, American Revenant: Hometown Exodus.  The story in general is vague and provides little to no exposition. You have evidence that a major calamity has befallen Hannibal, Missouri. People are seen making plans and preparing for something. What exactly, is unclear. And while this is going on there’s a REALLY long knockdown, drag out fight between two guys during a torrential downpour. Again, the motivation for this is unclear.
Despite being a short film, there is basically no real character development, and I found no reason to invest any emotion in the characters…well, maybe except for the mother and daughter pair, who had to flee their home. Now if you’re somebody who has read the novella, you have some idea of where the story is going or who the characters are, but I purposely didn’t read anything about Home Exodus until after watching the film. It made sense to me to approach it as somebody unfamiliar with the story, since others who watch it also may not have previous knowledge.
Most of the performances came across as wooden and lacked any displays of real urgency, anxiety, or genuine peril. FOR the most part, the only real definable emotion anyone displayed seemed to be annoyance.  That is with the exception of Taylor Chavez as Ellie’s Mom and Madelyn Johnson as Ellie. I found it difficult not to feel concern for these two defenseless ladies, who basically have nowhere to turn for help or shelter. The way they react to every facet of their situation is just rife with desperation. As for the hordes of zombies, it was a mixed bag. Some went for it full force and some just seemed to be going through the motions. It’s hard to tell whether that’s supposed to suggest some have been undead longer than others.
Visually, this film looked very good. The cinematographer’s shot composition, the framing and camera movements were incredibly well done. I’m not exactly sure to whom I should give this praise, because is no mention to be found in the credits. The film was also very well edited, giving the film good pacing. But sadly again…no credit to be found for the editor. One particular example is the long fight sequence that took place in a torrential down pour. I’m assuming since it’s an independent production, that Josh Mullner may have done the shooting and editing on top of the writing and directing.
The practical effects over all were solid, but some obviously better than others. Most of the gore effects and many of the zombie make ups were well done, while a few appeared kind of shoddily done. And some of the zombies looked a little too clean. Did they still have the mental capacity to avoid running into bloody and dirty messes?
Another aspect of the film I really need to highlight, is the music for the film made by Nick Robertson. It provided an appropriate auditory back drop of tragedy, despair and melancholy while being just a touch ominous. The  music never gets overly frantic or urgent, which ultimately works well for the film’s pacing.
So, was I blown away by this film? No, not particularly. Do I respect the effort made to produce this independent short? Absolutely! This film was obviously something of a passion project for Mullner, and it’s a testament to his passion that he got the outpouring of support from the local community. Technically, this film shows a great deal of potential, which could possibly even be translated to a feature length production. That being said I am giving American Revenant 6 / 10. Yeah, I know its’ not a sexy rating, but with any luck, Mullner will be back with some indie gold.

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