They run. They panic. Soldiers scurry. Blaring gun shots and overhead helicopters pierce the forest. A frenetic, hand-held, and fast-paced camera tracks the movement as soldiers yell, “We’ve gotta get out of here!” Dr. Cullen Gender (Carson Grant) is left behind, presumed dead. This is one of the early scenes in “Down that Road and Back”.
Set in the near future, the United States is divided by a second Civil War as a mysterious plague engulfs the nation. Chris Sendrowski’s multi-generational mini-epic is part comic book, part war movie. He’s attracted to big sweeping action sagas with lots of twists and turns. The film’s title will remind many of Bilbo Baggins’s journal “There and Back Again” from Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”.
The story centers on young soldier Chris Dalton’s (Chris Pickhardt) odyssey through the wilderness searching for a mysterious grave, indicated on a map that was once his father’s. Throughout his journey, Chris meets with several strange characters, including a twisted pair of young hoodlums (Calvin Gladen and Tim Rizor). Following a severe injury, Chris is found by the still-living Dr. Cullen Gender, who holds the terrifying secret regarding the inception of the horrible plague. Sendrowski seems to suggest that Man has a self destructive Nature: the human race is regressing, yet progressing into a more primal state. Dr. Gender starts off as the noble scientist, but in the end, after years of failure, he is reduced to wearing rags and wandering the wasteland like a savage. Throughout the film, characters act out of selfish motives. Once-loyal soldiers like Tommy (Noel Johansen) are now diminished to becoming anarchists trying to fend for their own survival.
Chris Sendrowski is a brave filmmaker. With little previous experience, and a budget of $22,000, Sendrowski headed straight for the woods in northern New Jersey. The film is well-photographed, with blue tones giving it a cold, dehumanized look. John Techio’s electronic score is somewhat bland and new age-ish, further enhancing some of the film’s emotional detachment.
“Down that Road and Back” made its premiere earlier this year at the Flicker Fest 2000 in Chicago. Sendrowski, who has been making obscure personal works for the past five years (“Bob’s Atmosphere” and “Railroad” for example), is hoping that this film’s success will lead to his first full length feature, an action film entitled “The Burning Card”.