Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet
Old Man of the Rooks
Chapter 1: Rachel Miller
Chapter 2: Jizabell Anat
Chapter 3: Steven Goransky
Chapter 4: A’Shaela Abdon
Chapter 5: Chris Martino
Chapter 6: Eli Montgomery, Kathy Simmons
Chapter 7: Jakin Shaw, Justin Little
Chapter 8: Julianna Johnson
Chapter 9: Matt Pitchford
Chapter 10: Brandon Woodward
Chapter 11: Eric E. Poe, Stephen Gilliam
Chapter 12: Nikki Wilder
Wages of Cine
99 minutes, 2018
Being a collective can be a challenge. When more than one person chooses do to different chapters of the same story, sometimes it works out great, sometimes not so much. For example, Stephen King and Peter Straub switched off on chapters for their 1983 novel, The Talisman; while it was arguably not a critics’ choice, I actually liked it, despite the tones of the writers being so different.
A closer metaphor to this release is telling stories around a campfire, where everybody adds their own part, and the next person has to continue from that point. Sure, there are going to be some gaps in the story and a few inconsistencies, but there is also refreshing new thoughts that take the story in ways you may not have expected.
For this film, it is serialized into 12 chapters, each section written and directed by a total of 15 people. To be honest, watching it on VoD without having a DVD, I don’t know when a chapter begins or ends, but honestly it felt mostly consistent, which is a beautiful thing. [Note that I later realized you can find all 12 chapters on YouTube.]
The center of the story is the titular man in the rook, or in this case, the supernatural killer in the scarecrow outfit. He’s a Scottish guy named Gordon (Joseph Zuchowski), brogue and all, who is killed in a jealous rage. His soul goes into a sack-cloth garbed scarecrow thanks to a bird-like witch named Ravenna (Jizabell Anat), who now controls his spirit. Ravenna looks like she was dressed from a Halloween or party store (not a complaint), with a bird mask, small black wings, and talons. Not for nuthin’, my cat’s name is Ravena, who is dreaming next to me as I write this. Humorously, the witch’s name is pronounced differently by various people (Rah-VEE-nah, RAH-veh-nah, etc. But I digress…
The story is interesting if sometimes hard to follow exactly, full of jealousy, rage, revenge, supernatural noodling, ghosts, and some decent gore. This could definitely be considered a stylized slasher film and there actually is an extremely high body count here, with the first death being my favorite (won’t give it away). There are no redeemable characters really other than Bobby (Eric E. Poe) and his niece, Tori (Caroline Grant), who get caught up in the goings on, sometimes to their extreme detriment.
The acting is sometimes on the level of community theater (again, not a complaint), but the same actors stay through the whole story, even if the motives of their actions change from writer to writer, keeping the viewer in suspense more than confusion. One character may seem good in one chapter and bad in another, and vice-versa. This is part of the fun. For me, the most solid of the batch is Susan Willis, who plays Deb, a housewife who is at the center of a lot of the action and seems to have the most screen time.
What’s also good fun (at least for me) is that the person who is the killer/scarecrow changes quite often as souls are dumped and replaced by other dead people. This is both WTF, and seems to work well with the serialized story.
Sometimes the coming backstabbing and scheming can be seen before the action, but with so many directors and writers, there are also plenty of moments where the viewer is guaranteed to be surprised about some turns of events.
Unlike most of the releases these days, these actors all look like they could be your neighbors, with realistic body types and a wide range of age groups. This made me happy.
I’m not sure if this type of serialized story is a one-shot idea, or will become part of a trend from Wages of Cine, but it is an interesting concept. This go at it is quite successful, with an enjoyable central plot and peripheral storylines that are all over the map, keeping this viewer unsure and wanting more.
Yes, there are moments where I was a bit baffled, but honestly, that was part of the fun for me. Most of it is cleared up by the end, anyway (the last chapter must have been the hardest to write and direct, bringing together all the thoughts of the others to clean it all up for our passive end of the screen.