By Admin | July 13, 2011

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.

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  1. Amy R. Handler says:

    Thanks for the comments. This movie does incite reaction, and that’s such a great thing! I agree that the very unique use of music is a true force in this film—as much as any character or circumstance could possibly be.
    Nicholai, I’m glad you thought of Cronenberg and Lynch. Gass-Donnelly is not only right up there with them— he’s forging his own incredible path. In my opinion,
    “Small Town Murder Songs” is a creative work of genius, and an extraordinary exploration of the human psyche.

  2. Nicholai says:

    We showed this last month at my nonprofit theater; it really was a masterpiece. There was some argument afterward over whether the soundtrack served the film or worked against it. For me, the power and energy of the Sacred Harp music, fronted with a growly-voiced lead, gave an emotional gut punch that was perfect counterpoint to the actors’ purposefully restrained performances. There are moments where you can see seething emotion in Walter’s eyes and the corners of his mouth, barely held back, and the soundtrack is a reminder of what hides beneath that facade.

    Several patrons at the show felt the soundtrack distracted from the story and should have been toned down. Looks like Gass-Donnelly’s work gets the kinds of discussion we tend to have about Cronenberg and Lynch, in a good way.

  3. Logan Myers says:

    I really want to see this RIGHT NOW!

  4. earthwick says:

    A review that really makes me want to see the movie. Thank you.

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