Shredder (2011)

Description (from codyclarke.com/shredder):
Shredder is the first feature-length film by Cody Clarke. It was shot over the course of twenty days on a shoestring budget of $3,000– $735 of which was raised through donations on Kickstarter. All scenes were filmed in the actual NYC apartments of its cast, using natural light and a Canon T2i camera. Static shots were utilized exclusively. Drawing from such influences as Chantal Akerman, Jim Jarmusch, and John Cassavettes, Cody has crafted a stark, atmospheric work that stands out as an avant-garde ‘teen film’. He stars in the lead role as Travis, a High School senior who has fallen out of love with writing comedy songs on guitar and in love with practicing heavy metal. Over the course of the film, we follow Travis’ ups and downs with friends, love interests, and his instrument.

Major Cast:
Cody Clarke as Travis, Ellie Aaron as Sarah, Ben Wolf as Daniel, Rob Goldstein as Jake, Jillene Anzanetta as Kate, Emelia Benoit-Lavelle as Amy

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written and Directed by Cody Clarke

I get the distinct impression that SHREDDER is a film that you either really like, or really dislike; I doubt there are a lot of viewers that think, “It was ok.” The film has a fair share of what could be seen as “pros” and “cons,” and if you like SHREDDER or not will be completely based on if you feel the pros are pros, and the cons are cons; what one person sees as a negative is easily a positive to another person’s outlook. On the pro side: SHREDDER is a great example of low-budget filmmaking done right (only a few locations, only a few major characters, no explosions or guns or other stuff to increase the budget requirements), it is beautifully shot in black & white (which immediately adds weight to any dramatic film, and also exudes an air of “artistic credibility”), and it has an odd little story to tell. As for the cons: SHREDDER is entirely composed of static shots (not one camera movement in the entire film), the story creeps along at a snail’s pace, and really nothing much happens to the protagonist at all (things happen around him, but very little happens to him directly).

Travis plays his soon-to-be hit single “Belly Button” for Kate

Travis is a student who has been playing guitar for a few years, and mostly makes up funny little songs with little difficulty to the music. I assumed that Travis was in college by the fact that he seems to do what he wants when he wants, he has a bunch of friends that are talking about music theory (not your average HS class), there seems to be a pretty major lack of parents in the film, and just the overall feel of the film, but according to the description he is in high school. One day while messing around with his girlfriend, he hears some metal shredding piping through the walls, and finds out that her weird, pedophile brother Daniel (yes, a high school aged pedophile) is actually really talented at the guitar. Travis takes interest, and finds that he really doesn’t know much at all about how to really play, he just plays around. Daniel scolds him on not learning the basics, and hands him a stack of music books to read and learn.

As far as the plot goes in SHREDDER, there really isn’t a well-defined one. There’s Travis, who likes a bunch of girls and wants to get better at the guitar, who meets Daniel, Sarah’s sick brother. Daniel has pedophile tendencies, which has really messed up Sarah’s worldview. Then there’s Jake, Travis’ friend who has been studying music theory from elementary school and is a lot better guitarist. And there are some other girls that drift in and out of Travis’ life. As far as plot? Well, Travis decides he wants to get better at the guitar, and his mentor is a bit fucked up in the head. Other than that, there’s not really much t say for plot.

Daniel begins to teach Travis the ways of the shred

Not every film has a well-defined plot. For some people this is a con, but for others it is a pro. Clarke cites Jarmusch and Allen as influences, and their films often ramble on without a definite place to go to, and SHREDDER is in that same vein. SHREDDER is not a movie that is about the destination so much as it is about the journey to get there. There really is just not a whole lot that happens, but SHREDDER still manages to build to an emotional impact at the end.

As far as the production goes, SHREDDER again had its pros and its cons. It is shot in black & white (and now with the digital age, b&w is completely a stylistic choice, unlike in films like CLERKS where it was based on budget restraints), which really does add weight to any film, especially one with heavy dramatic undertones like SHREDDER. The film is entirely presented in static shots – put the camera on a tripod and hit record – and I wonder if this was a stylistic choice, or a production constraint. I got tired of the static shots pretty quickly; I don’t need MTV-esque flying crane shots and a million quick cuts a minute to stay interested, but the complete lack of camera movement really bored me. It also makes it hard to come up with nicely composed shots (the film is not completely lacking visually interesting shots, but there aren’t a whole lot of them either), and occasionally you end up with cut off heads and hard to see action on the screen. I wonder if this was because this is the way Clarke wanted to present this film, or if this was because there was no DP on the film, no other person to run the camera since Clarke was also the star of the film. The sound was pretty decent overall; at times it was too quiet, at other times a bit washed out from the volume of singing or guitar, but overall it was pretty decent for a no-budget film. The editing was neither here nor there, there was nothing special about the editing, but it did its job solidly. This could easily be seen this way because of the fact that all of the shots are static, which really limits what visual tricks you can do in the editing of the film.

Anthony Kapfer performing my favorite song in the film, “D is for Divorce”

Overall, SHREDDER was a film that I warmed up to. In the beginning it moved so slow and so little happened in both the story and the visual presentation of the film, that I started to get a bit bored. By the time the character of Daniel was introduced, my interest started to pick up. And by the end, I was glad that I stuck around for the whole thing. If you are a viewer that has to have a roadmap in your film, SHREDDER will not be for you; if you are a viewer that can’t stand a movie where nothing really happens, you’re gonna hate SHREDDER. If you are a film fan of the indie talkie films, where not a whole lot happens, but that journey is a beautiful one, then take note of SHREDDER.

Overall 7 / 10

SHREDDER on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1778900/

SHREDDER is free to watch at: http://www.codyclarke.com/shredder/

SHREDDER site: http://www.codyclarke.com/shredder/

Shredder (2011)
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One thought on “Shredder (2011)

  1. Cody Clarke here! Just popping in to clarify my intent behind the visual style of the film. I wanted the film to look home-recorded. Not in a ‘home movie’ sense, of course. (If I’d wanted that I would’ve gone handheld!) What I mean is I wanted to mimic home recording of music: press record, perform, press stop. One take. I treated the camera like a tape recorder. As far as the use of black and white: lo-fi, home-recorded acoustic stuff just sounds black and white to me. Stuff like The Mountain Goats, The Moldy Peaches, et al.

    Thanks for the review, and I’m glad you dug it for the most part!

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