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By Pete Vonder Haar | June 15, 2008

Those who don’t live in the great states of Texas or Oklahoma might be unfamiliar with the often…unpleasant relations between the two states. Much of it stems from the football rivalry between their respective state universities, but bad blood of a distinctly regional nature persists even during the off season. Speaking as a Texan, one of my favorite jokes is as follows:

Q: Why do birds fly upside down over Oklahoma?
A: Because there’s nothing worth shitting on.

And yet, I’m not ignorant of the attitudes of those to the north of the Red River, which is why the actions of the protagonists in “The Stanton Family Grave Robbery” make perfect sense to me. The three Stanton brothers: Charlie (William Brand Rackley) – the youngest and most promising, Brian (Kevin Costello) – the oldest, in and out of jail for nonviolent offenses, and Mark (Cole Selix) – the middle alcoholic brother, have just learned of their father’s passing. Knowing he wouldn’t want to remain buried in Texas, in spite of his new wife’s insistence, Brian and Mark kidnap Charlie, dig up dad’s casket, and make their way back to Oklahoma via back roads to properly inter him in their hometown of Enid, OK.

This proves a difficult task, as the brothers are forced to stay off the interstate, the better to evade the police that have been set on their trail by their stepmother Lori. Along the way, the three young men are forced to deal with their strained relationship as well as their somewhat checkered pasts.

“The Stanton Family Grave Robbery” was shot for less than $5,000, which the amazingly accomplished finish product that much more impressive. Director Mark Potts makes the most of his limited resources, shooting in a $27 a night hotel room and filming the genuinely dilapidated van until its very real breakdown. The script, written by Potts, Costello, and Selix, certainly helps, eliciting a great deal of laughter. The cast is similarly notable, especially Costello, who gets the bulk of the best lines, and Selix, who makes Mark’s third act turnaround eminently believable. Everyone involved obviously put an enormous amount of heart and energy into the production, and it’s nice to see it all come together.

This is the first feature from Singletree Productions, and based on how well “The Stanton Family Grave Robbery” works, I eagerly await this group’s next effort.

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