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By James Teitelbaum | October 8, 2009

This short film, which will screen at the Philadelphia Terror Film Festival this month, relates the story of how the Micah Rood (or “Mike”) apple came to be. Now, the genesis of nicknames for apples is not usually the most intriguing subject for a movie, but in this case there’s a bit of a ghost story attached to it, and everyone loves a good ghost story. Or so I am told.

Set in 1693, the film stars Ron Palillo as Rood, a cranky old curmudgeon who jealously guards his apple orchards, doing whatever it takes to keep the locals away from his precious trees. He tends to the trees in a loving manner (recalling Hugh Jackman in “The Fountain”), talking to them and pruning them with care. When a friendly peddler comes to the farm in need of a roof for the night, Rood is reluctant to let him stay, and with good reason. Things do not go well for anyone involved.

This is a nice looking film with some stylishly lit sets captured by Marc Wishengrad’s solid camerawork. The tight running time works for the material; there is not enough story here to have made for a feature. The supporting cast members are fine, and the period costumes are convincing. Palillo, three decades on from his stint in “Welcome Back Kotter,” has does his best to make this role his own.

Paradoxically, what sinks this short is Ron Palillo. His Irish accent is as bad as it gets, and it only gets worse as the film unspools. The guy who voices the leprechaun in the old Lucky Charms cereal commercials is more convincing. I am not sure I have ever heard a worse attempt at an Irish accent, and this includes the efforts of drunken fratboys drinking green beer on Saint Patrick’s Day. It is unfathomable why director Alec Asten didn’t ask Palillo to scrap the accent after the first hour of the first day of filming, and so for this, the blame must be placed on Asten, not Palillo. It is the director’s job to recognize and fix things that just aren’t working. This is all too bad, because there is a fair amount in this short that does work.

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