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Ratline

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    Todd Jordan
    Smut is good.

  • Ratline



    Released by: Wicked Pixel Cinema
    Released on: 9/20/2011
    Director: Eric Stanze
    Cast: Emily Haack, Jason Christ, Sarah Swofford, Alex Del Monacco
    Year: 2010
    Purchase from Amazon

    The Movie:
    Two sisters, Crystal (Emily Haack) and Kim (Alex Del Monacco) are on the run due to their involvement with some bad people, which ended in theft and murder. They find some safety in the small town of Hermann, Missouri when they rent space in a house with good-girl Penny (Sarah Swofford), who works for the town under her grandfather (Joseph R. Engel). Meanwhile, Frank (Jason Christ) comes to town looking for something Sarah's grandfather has and he works his way into the lives of the women with some sinister intentions and gruesome results.

    To give much more for a plot synopsis would be a disservice to the movie. Reading the above, it may sound like some shitty women's channel original movie, but it isn't. But to say much more would give away some turns in the movie that are not expected. The box copy mentions ties to Nazi Germany and the Blood Flag which supposedly contains supernatural powers, so saying that isn't revealing anything, but that's as far as this review will go in sharing the story line.

    Forget the fact that its an indie picture and forget the fact the it's a very low budget picture. Actually it's very easy to forget this is a micro budget movie because the skill of the filmmakers, specifically co-writer/editor/cinematographer/director Eric Stanze, make this movie look a lot bigger than it really is. The film is shot on location, mostly in Missouri, and they make full use of what the town has to offer, including an Oktoberfest celebration held by the town every year. Also used is a run down school and an amazing old graveyard. Stanze has a great photographic sense and knows how to fill the screen and his editing style, such as the use of fade-in/fade-out mixing (which most probably has some technical term), lends the movie an interesting feel. It is sometimes almost dreamlike. And a big slap on the back for the film's creative use of fake WWII movie reels of the Nazis and some of the paranormal research they conducted. It's really well done and such a great way to show the past without use of a flashback.

    Performances are pretty strong, with Wicked Pixel veteran Emily Haack working her character pretty convincingly. The standout job, though, goes to Jason Christ. He plays the role of the bad guy and keeps it from going over the top in such a way that he avoids being ridiculous, and is instead pretty menacing. Another performer worthy of mention is the guy who did the gore effects. There are lots of them to behold, all physical ones (as opposed to computer fakery) and most of them are very realistic. The blood and guts quota is high, as is the nudity factor, making this a sleazy movie that should appeal to the exploitation/horror crowd.

    The one drawback for the film was actually the inclusion of such graphic violence. This movie has enough going for it without having to resort to the visual gimmicks of beheadings and dismemberment and would certainly appeal to a larger audience without it. Scaling down of the “show everything” technique may have helped the films climax to have more of an impact that it does. The climax still packs a punch though, and does something most viewers won't be expecting.

    With an original story, good acting, and great production values, Ratline is a firm example of indie filmmaking and is worthy of your attention. It's miles above just a slice-and-dice cheapie.

    Video/Audio/Extras:
    The film is shown here in what it is assumed to be the original aspect ratio of 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, and things look pretty standard. The colors look correct, as do skin tones. Good detail too (check out the Wicked Pixel wind-up skeleton on Haack's bicep). There's lots of scenery in the movie and things have an overall decent look. The black levels look pretty consistent, maybe a bit murky in the darkest of scenes. The audio is a 2.0 Dolby track that has a good balance throughout. Voices are clear, no distortion to speak of, and the music has a kick to it, but is never too much. There are no authoring issued noticed with the disc.

    The extras are plentiful starting with two commentary tracks: one with director Stanze alone, and one with Stanze, and the lead actors Emily Haack and Jason Christ. The latter is the more interesting of the two, and that's not to say the one with the director alone isn't good, because it is, but it's kind of dry. Stanze delivers some great information, especially to those interested in making micro-budget movies, but the track could use some pep. Maybe another person? The one with Stanze and the cast members is a pretty fun listen. Lots of stories and memories and Jason Christ gives his take on the representation of gay characters in movies, and the man makes a lot of sense.

    There is also an hour-long making of, which is just as good as the feature. Interviews with the crew and actors and lots of behind the scenes footage (Christ's beard at one point is of near-Taliban proportions) make up the parts that create an interesting look into no-studio moviemaking. Also included: about four minutes of deleted scenes, a seven-minute gag reel, and a couple of trailers (Ratline and Deadwood Park).

    The Final Word:
    An original movie, made with competence and obvious talent, Ratline stands above the hoards of independent film company output. There're some good plot turns and a couple of moments where the story doesn't go where you'd expect, keeping the action from being predictable. The extras are excellent and there's lots of them, helping to make this a solid DVD. Definitely worth picking up.











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