Things get violent and weird in Ashland, Oregon when a prescription drug and topical cream kicks off a “zombie” apocalypse. First it’s just teenagers in a park, but eventually the epidemic spreads and invades the life of housewife Leslie (Denise Baxter), her husband Jack (Richard Sangeleer) and their daughter Cassie (Aubrey Baxter). By day’s end, all manner of horrors will be realized by the family.
Now, I put “zombie” in quotations because, while the infected appear to have zombie eyes and move with the same predatory movements made famous in 28 Days Later, they also can operate hand guns. And drive cars. Simply, the “z”-word is an easy touchstone, but the truth is something else entirely.
There are deliberately paced movies and then there are ones where predominantly nothing happens. Richard Sangeleer’s Solipsa falls in the latter category. After setting a somewhat energetic tone in the first ten minutes before showcasing a zombie-esque attack, the film then does little for the next forty-five or so minutes. While I get that the film was going for something more along the lines of character setup, it just had too much going against it in a number of areas to pull it off well enough to compensate for the lull in the pace.
For starters, it’s obvious that this film is either in or near the “no-budget” category of filmmaking; this does not mean the film will be, or has to be, awful. It does mean, however, that there are a number of shortcomings inherent that need to be creatively overcome somehow. If you know all the daytime footage is going to be blown out because of the quality of the equipment, do something to lessen that impact. If you’re going to spend most of the film trying to set up characters and personalities, focus on recording, and mixing, the audio better.
It’d be one thing if the filmmakers were talentless, or didn’t know better, but there are enough moments and shots in the film to lead me to believe otherwise. For as much as this film relies on a tripod and medium wide composition, it also tries unique framing here and there to mix things up. But then it also is a bit too heavy-handed and friendly with altering the speed of the shots (speed up, slow down) for dramatic effect to the point that it becomes tiresome. It’s confusing, simply; the filmmakers seems to be aware enough to do something solid with their resources, but then the edit will “cross the line” or a scene will have an actor’s face covered in blood cut to a shot with no blood. It’s competent, but then it isn’t.
Story-wise, where the no-budget snares are less an issue, the film is as flawed as anywhere else. You get the setup behind what is going on, and how it is trying to connect the dots, but then as it plays out, it doesn’t really work. At the same time, maybe I missed something; as I said, it didn’t always have the cleanest audio.
On the plus side, the narrative twist (which is a little predictable) at least shows an interest in trying something different with some familiar zombie-esque elements. And, again, there are some fun shots and composition once things get particularly thrilling in the final third of the film. But that’s about all I could come up with on the positive side.
Making a film is hard, no two ways about it. Making a low or no-budget film can be beyond challenging, so I know what the filmmakers were up against. The question then becomes whether the film can transcend its trappings, either via story, creativity or acting performance. Unfortunately, Solipsa comes up short in almost every area. The idea was sound, sure, but the execution just wasn’t there.
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