What happens when you mix a small Mennonite town, a conflicted police chief, and a nude corpse by the lake?
Not your average crime flick, that’s for sure.
“Small Town Murder Songs” is Ed Gass-Donnelly’s newest creation— and it’s very clear from this slow burning masterpiece, that this filmmaker is a mega force in contemporary Goth-Noir.
The story is simple. In fact, it’s so mundane that it’s almost innocuous. An Ontario police chief named Walter (Peter Stormare), and his young deputy Jim (Aaron Poole), are called to the scene of a crime. Supervised by a no-nonsense detective (Ari Cohen) of the O.P.P. (The Ontario Provincial Police), Walter and his team canvass the backwoods in search of the identity of both killer and prey. And that’s when things become hairy.
From the solitary, black-field shots of Walter and not so X-flame, Rita (Jill Hennessy)—to deliberate, probing horizontal-pans, it soon becomes apparent that Gass-Donnelly has a firm grip on both his film and its viewers. This can be said even when brazen cards warn, “Repent and profess your FAITH,” or when the filmmaker seems to lead his audience to a far-too-clean resolution.
But to believe that’s what Gass-Donnelly is doing is far different than what’s really happening—so be forewarned.
The filmmaker’s love for theatrics is displayed not through ordinary, green-screen gimmickry, but through penetrating portraiture, and sound. Unlike most directors, who use film scores subtly— to compliment scenes, Gass-Donnelly uses music with lethal force. Here, songs sung with angry religious zeal, become principal players set out to foil the more obvious, lead characters. The result is flabbergasting—disarming, and downright frightening.
What’s exciting about “Small Town Murder Songs,” is that we are able to interact with the story at a very visceral level. Every single one of our senses is on alert, and in full gear from the film’s beginning to its end. Then, when we’re finally ready to leave the theatre, we’re not quite the same as when we came in.
Move over Messrs. Malick, Cronenberg and Lynch. Ed Gass-Donnelly has arrived, and he’s permanently here to stay. “Small Town Murder Songs” is the must see— soon-to-be-cult phenomenon of the 21st century. See it for your own good. You won’t be sorry.