Indie Horror Spotlight: Sledge (2013)

John Sovie II
Kristian Hanson

Dustin Bowman - Alex
Travis Hanson - Shawn
Stephanie Tupper - Sarah
Russell Matoes - Nash
Desiree Holmes - Michelle
Kristian Hanson - Adam Lynch
Rachel Cornell - Couch Girl

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Comedy

Running Time - 75 Minutes

This edition of "Indie Horror Spotlight" is for Kristian Hanson's and John Sovie II's independent slasher film, SLEDGE. Kristian and I have been internet buddies for a couple of years now due to mutual interests [mainly horror and pro wrestling] and I've always been entertained by his puppet work when he was in his reviewing phase of his life. However, that phase ended once Kristian started to write and work on his first feature-length film, SLEDGE. Once he had production stills and a trailer, I was one of the first people to be invited to see them, which I greatly appreciated. Now, the work on SLEDGE has been completed and Kristian has allowed me to watch a secret online screener of his film. What are my thoughts?

SLEDGE is a throwback to 1980s slashers that also happens to be a film-within-a-film. A girl (Rachel Cornell) watches Assly's True American Horror show, in which host Assly presents this week's horror movie - SLEDGE. SLEDGE is your typical slasher film with a group of friends camping in the woods for sex, booze, and feuding amongst themselves. Unfortunately, this group of friends are camping at the wrong neck of the woods, as a serial killer named Adam Lynch (Kristian Hanson) is roaming around looking for victims. Will any of this group survive and defeat Lynch, or will Lynch survive for a potential sequel?

SLEDGE, while not close to perfect, is a pretty damn good film made for only $2000. In fact, I gotta say that the picture quality for SLEDGE is downright beautiful for such a low-budget. Although there are some lighting issues at times, much of the film looks crisp and clear. The direction by Kristian Hanson and John Sovie II is pretty good, although I wish some scenes had more style to them. It was evident especially during the scene with Alex (Dustin Bowman) tells the others about the urban ghost story of Adam Lynch. The lighting is in the wrong place, so much of the scene looks too dark. Also, it's one static shot within the scene, when more angles and shot scales could have enhanced the storytelling. But other than that, it's a visually nice low-budget flick with a bit of charm that I liked looking at.

The screenplay is a bit better, as it attempts to take a generic slasher tale and make it somewhat memorable due to the film's characters. There's no real character development in the film - but really, who watches a slasher film for depth? Still, we get a bit of a romance subplot between Nash (Russell Matoes), Sarah (Stephanie Tupper), and Alex. Alex has been in love with Sarah for years, but Sarah is dating Nash. However, Sarah may have feelings for Alex and Nash. And Alex and Nash don't get along at all. In fact, Alex is a big prick who has no filter and says whatever is on his mind - no matter how offensive it may be to those around him. I can't say that any of the characters, including Michelle (Desiree Holmes) and Shawn (Travis Hanson) are all that likeable really. It's not like I want any of them to survive Adam Lynch's killing spree. But they do come across as human, as I can definitely see any group of five friends interacting the way these five do. And they're not annoying at all, just presented in a somewhat realistic manner.

The real star of the screenplay is Adam Lynch [named after horror directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch of Holliston fame] himself. He's a masked serial killer who isn't like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers at all. This dude is all personality. In fact, I'm sure Kristian Hanson [who wrote the screenplay and plays Lynch] was inspired by both Freddy Krueger and the killer from NAIL GUN MASSACRE. Adam Lynch loves his one-liners and I gotta say, some of them had me laughing. I thought it took away how standard the film plays out, injecting it with much needed humor as if to make fun of itself. While hunting or murdering his victims, Lynch loves to crack some jokes relating to the situation. I also love that Lynch has a dim-witted sidekick named Dickie, who he frames each time a murder goes down. I thought that was seriously clever, messed up, and funny as hell. I also enjoyed the pop culture mentions as well, as Lynch sure loves his entertainment trivia. Honestly, you'll be rooting for the killer from beginning to end. He's the only one with any likeable personality. Whether that's a good thing or not, it's up to you.

I did have issues with the interruptions during the actual SLEDGE presentation. Certain times, the SLEDGE portion would cut into the young woman watching Assly's program. These scenes present this woman as someone who recently broke up with an ex who loved these kind of films. I guess watching these bad horror films [which is intentional] is a reminder of their relationship and she's in total denial about it. She gets phone calls from her best friend and her ex during the presentation, as she lies about why she's watching SLEDGE to begin with. I thought these portions were well written, but they tended to interrupt the film in places that just ruined the flow and momentum for me. I would really get into the film, but then we would go back to this girl and her problems for five minutes. Then after that, we're thrusted right back into the main story again. I'm not sure how this could have been handled better, but these interruptions were more distracting than anything.

I thought the filmmakers cast a decent group of actors who seemed convincing. In particular, I thought Dustin Bowman as Alex and Stephanie Tupper as Sarah were especially good. Bowman played the bitter, jealous prick to a tee. He's a guy I would hate to hang with, but somehow feel sorry for. And Tupper played somewhat of a bitch, but she had good chemistry with Bowman. And points have to go to Kristian Hanson as Adam Lynch. His delivery was great and he had me laughing. The other actors were good too, but I thought those three were the standouts.

And the gore was handled really well for a low-budget film. I've seen some films that have bigger budgets than SLEDGE, yet have really crappy gory moments that make you wonder where all the money went. Here, the effects are done professionally well and come across as convincing. I was really impressed.

All in all, SLEDGE is a pretty fun indie slasher film. It's nothing that will set any trends in the horror genre. But it's obviously Hanson and Sovie II are fans of the genre and are having fun playing with the slasher conventions. Not sure when the film will be out for public consumption, but I think slasher fans will get a huge kick out of it. I really hope Hanson and Sovie continue to make more films, especially the one they teased called THE AMISH PARADISE, with chainsaw wielding Amish killers. That looks like a lot of fun.

2 Howls Outta 4

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