Left For Dead (2014)

Description (from megaultrastudios.wix.com/leftfordead):
They killed their little sister. Now, these hell kittens are coming after the hitmen and they will show no mercy. They’ll all be Left for Dead.

Major Cast:
Intoxi Kate as Bella Meurta, General Blackery as Fageeda, Joy Coy as Silky Gunn, Holly Rebelle as Harley Hellcat, Paul Cochrell as Red, Luis Soto as Pinky, Chris Quintana as Mick, Ben Reyes as Rob, Brian Botkiller as Slave

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written by John Michael Poling and Mikel-Jon West
Directed by Mikel-Jon West

 

LEFT FOR DEAD is another film from my old stomping ground, the Albuquerque indie film scene, coming from one Mr. Mikel-Jon West and his wife, Michel West. Mike was another of the guys that I never had too much chance to work with directly while I was in Albuquerque, but we all knew who each other were, so I was familiar with him and some of the stuff he had worked on for other people in the scene. L4D was my first time seeing something he directed himself, but as a little Ryan’s Reviews connection Mike was the co-writer and cinematographer for CROSS, which was the first movie I wrote a review for here back in September of 2005!  Oh, and full disclosure here: some of my own music that I composed appears on the soundtrack for L4D, so I am in just a teensy way involved with the production of this movie… in so much that I emailed Mike some of my music.

Mike’s own movie is described on its site as a “throwback to exploitation and revenge film genres,” and he made the movie (according to an interview he did with the Albuquerque Film Examiner) because he’s “an 80’s kid, so [he] grew up on drive-in theater and direct-to-video kind of horror and exploitation films.” No complaints here! I’m actually pretty happy with the current resurgence of not just independent “throwback” films of genres that are underrepresented, but also the current trend of Shot-On-Video movies (see Warlock Home Video for some fun examples), which reminds me of those days growing up that you could go to your LOCAL, INDEPENDENT video store and grab a movie no one had ever heard of, which might not be good but would be fun. That is the aesthetic Mike is going for with L4D, so more power to him! Unfortunately, I don’t think L4D quite achieved what it set out to do.

Be afraid.  Or aroused.  Or afraoused.
Be afraid. Or aroused. Or afraoused.

The story is pretty classic revenge trash: four vaguely criminal-esque bad girls get drawn into misery when one of them, an escort, refuses to do what her “powerful” client wants, and goes a little overboard on the retaliation. Well, a lot overboard. So mama pimp is not happy, and decides to take revenge for the slight on not just her employee, but her employee’s friends and ultimately kills one of them. Now your bad girls become bad grrls, all fired up and ready to kick some shit, and go on the warpath to revenge the murder. So, pretty classic 80’s sounding SOV revenge flick, with some of the most important factors that sold videos back then: boobs and blood. The plot is solid and there. It’s the execution that falls flat.

Hence, the title...
Hence, the title…

On the production side of L4D, there were a lot of things I took issue with. The film was shot, I think, on a digital SLR camera, so it is likely HD. This can be a blessing or a curse, and for L4D I don’t think it was taken advantage of correctly. The movie ends up looking very “digital” and quite flat in a lot of shots, like the autofocus was on instead of using the manual focus to draw the eye in to what the filmmakers want you to look at. This is exacerbated by the lighting which is some scenes is decent, but in some is quite harsh and not tuned for the camera that is being used. Then there is the bane of “grindhouse” movies: fake film grain. Fake film grain! Why??? First off, fake film grain always looks, well… fake, which cheapens the film. But secondly, if this is an 80’s throwback, I would have loved to see some fake VHS artifacts instead! How about some tracking errors, a little wobbly screen, some color bleed, like someone left the tape on the dash of their car before they returned it to the store, or a messed up section where a VCR ate the tape? That would have been cool and different and would have served this film much better than the fake film grain did. Now please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to think that L4D is horrible to watch, because it’s not. There is a lot of good stuff going on in the composition of the shots, and some nice transitions that make the imagery more appealing to the eye. The issues that the video brings in the first place though are not overcome by the nice physical use of the camera itself.

We could use some lights here.  Seriously.
We could use some lights here. Seriously.

On the acting side, I was also mostly underwhelmed. I know from a little research that the majority of the main characters are burlesque dancers in Albuquerque, so they are performers. But that is a medium that requires you to emote through totally physical sources, and not so much with the dialogue that L4D is filled with (which, by the way, seems often to be overly crass just to be overly crass, which is a true-to-form throwback of the genre, but did get a bit annoyingly over the top for me). As a whole, the lead ladies and the villains all felt like they were very much in that “your friends and neighbors” level of acting. The standout for me on the acting front was Joy Coy, as she was the one of the lead ladies that I truly felt had a handle on the dialogue and the delivery with emotion, where many of the others were more reading lines. Now, is this a bad thing? Depends on your outlook. When you would go to that local video store in 1987 and rent some random revenge thriller, was that filled with Oscar worthy performances? Most assuredly not. As a matter of fact, that was often what made that “bad” movie “fun,” was the ridiculousness of the performances. With L4D, I actually wish that they were a little worse; this way it would feel more like a parody or homage to these bad performances that we grew up on, right now they are kind of in a middle ground where they are not good, but not eccentrically bad enough to feel like a real throwback.

Look!  A strip club in an indie flick with ACTUAL PATRONS!
Look! A strip club in an indie flick with ACTUAL PATRONS!

Overall, L4D is an enjoyable film. It’s got the boobs and the blood and the way out there plot and characters that make an 80’s exploitation revenge film, and 80’s exploitation revenge film. There are a lot of things that could be tweaked to make it a better film – it is in no way perfect – but I think it will find an audience that enjoys it. And I most certainly have to give it credit for having one of the most “populated” strip club scenes I have watched in an indie movie; you’d think that would be an easy sell to your friends, to come out and be an extra and watch some girls pretend to be strippers, but it is really hard to actually get a club to look like it is a working club! It’s rough around the edges in ways it shouldn’t be and polished in ways it shouldn’t be, and it could use to either go a little worse on the acting or a lot better, but overall L4D was a fun romp through the bloody underbelly of Albuquerque.

 

Overall 6 / 10

L4D on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3530402

L4D is not for sale yet.

L4D site: http://megaultrastudios.wix.com/leftfordead
http://www.facebook.com/leftdeadmovie

Left For Dead (2014)
Left For Dead (2014)
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