Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: The Changing of Ben Moore

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Changing of Ben Moore
Written and directed by Jason Mills
Sector 5 Films / Chemical Burn Entertainment /
Reality Entertainment / Gravitas Ventures / Mills Pictures

World Wide Multi Media
85 minutes, 2015

Recently, I had the opportunity to review director Jason Mills’ other full lengther called They Came from the Attic (2009; aka Above Us Lives Evil). Similarly, this new one takes place in Delta, an area south of Vancouver. As I write this, I’m just across the bay on the Saanich Peninsula, British Columbia, but I digress…

Using the time-worn found footage sub-subgenre, we are introduced to a group of mid-20-year-olds who don’t really seem to have much employment or income, though one works overnight hours every other day so perhaps he’s employed at a Mac’s or something; for those who don’t know, Mac’s is similar to 7-Eleven in Canada.  There are three-and-a-half main characters, so working my way up: the obnoxious smart ass who helps out on camera duty occasionally named John (Bruce Novakowski); Derick (Corey Beaulieu) is the foul mouthed but caring best friend whose aunt adopted Ben, and has come up with the whole idea of the filming; the girlfriend is Sara (Shannon Ostrom aka Shannen Melissa), and; the focus of the film, the titular Ben (Umberto Celisano), who general comes across and a caring, congenial guy who is befuddled about what is happening to him. Everyone else in the cast who parties with them is surprisingly not necessarily fodder for once. But more on that later.

The reason for the filming is to create a record of the strange goings on of Ben, who was adopted after the death of his parents, and now at 24 years of age, lives in what was the house of his adopted aunt, Derik’s mom. Perhaps an insurance claim left Ben enough money to be able not to have to have a real job? Part of the problem of (not with) this story is that we know just about nothing about them, other than that they died, not even how it happened). Now, it seems Ben hasn’t been sleeping, has not been hungry in days yet remains fit, and has the occasional blackout in his memory.

Caught on camera at night by Derik, Sara or John, Ben seems dazed, has killed a pet or two, and his pupils are turning pale blue. He also seems a bit dazed, hostile, and inarticulate other than a roar or two. Oh, and as they mention in all the film’s official summaries, people have started to disappear in part or in whole. Personally, I believe the trailer gives too much away, and I’m glad I didn’t watch it first, though it is quite effective.

Borrowing a small bit from The Beast Within (1982), we don’t really know about Ben’s lineage, and what is happening is not explained because it is obviously not understood even by its participants, but my guess is something innate and primal.

I must say, generally, I’m done with found footage (ff); usually same old, same old. However, this film is actually one of the better indies I’ve seen use it. Most ff takes way too long setting up the back-story, or has too much superfluous nonsense supposedly to throw us off the track (e.g., the first 10-20 minutes of Cloverfield or everything except the last 10 minutes of The Blair Witch Project). Here, yes there is an introduction of the characters, but it’s balanced out well with the action and there is some character development even without much build-up of the actual histories of anyone. Part of the reason for this is the top-quality acting that Mills has found to voice his thoughts. Novakowski’s John is a bit over the top, but personally, I have friends who are like that naturally. Beaulieu’s passive-aggressive friendship, again, comes across as natural, and I can name some acquaintances of mine like that, as well. Ostrom comes across as the appropriate level of concern, affection and anger, without playing it off the scale. She’s attractive without being unrealistically model-ish (I promise you, that’s a high compliment), which makes the compassion factor for her that much higher.

Ben Moore mid-way through his changing
Of course, the film hinges on Celisano’s Ben. Having experience in both high drama and low comedy – heck, he played a hell of a young Capone recently – helps him be believable both as his “day person” and whatever it is he becomes at night, even when they jump-cut from one to another.

As for the rest of the cast, which is mostly seen in a party sequence and the after-effects, the body count is pretty low, but quite effective, especially as the story builds to its gruesome conclusion.

It’s easy to tell this film didn’t cost too much to make, other than a few minor CGI moments here and there. But it definitely kept me wanting more, which is rare for a “Hello!? I’m walking through the dark house with just the camera light on! Is there anyone or thing waiting to jump out at me around the corner?!?” film. It’s effectively done to keep the creepy factor on high. Sure, I would have run to the authorities of some sort (other than the one weak-willed priest they show) as soon as I saw the blue/white eyes the first time to try and seek help for my friend, but hey, that’s (a) not how these genres works, and (b) wouldn’t help advance the story much. Just think of The Exorcist (1973), and how much the parts of Reagan going to see the doctors during the second act slowed down the story flow, even if it was what would really have happened).

Considering how much I groaned at the prospect of seeing another ff flick, I sure am glad I stuck it out, because it really was fun, with very little drag to it, even with all the open questions. Perhaps this will lead to a sequel? Yeah, I’d watch that, as this is the rare film I saw and thought, hmm, I wonder what happened after the film concluded. Nice work.

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