Nick (Benjamin Panzarino) has always felt a little different. He’s sensitive, possibly telepathic, sees red halos on different people’s heads sometimes and feels a presence watching him in his room at night. Whenever he tries to talk about things, he is mocked by his friends and family. He’s lost and confused, until he meets the mysterious Zedic (Gary Ploski), who finally explains why Nick feels the way he does.
Zedic and the Crimson Born suffers from many shortcomings, not the least of which is its lack of a story arc for any of the characters. This is basically all introduction, first act-type stuff. We find out why Nick feels differently, and why he sometimes sees a red halo atop someone’s head, but that’s it. There’s really no narrative tale to be told here; it’s premise and character introduction only. It almost plays like an interminably long trailer.
On the technical side of things, I tend to be very understanding of the visual results that one can get with a low budget short, but this film also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of simple filmmaking technique. The composition and edit, particularly in instances where Nick and Zedic speak to each other, is constantly “crossing the line.” For example, in a scene where Zedic and Nick meet on the street, the two-shot is composed with Zedic on the left and Nick on the right. As the scene cuts into close-ups, Nick is suddenly on the left, with Zedic framed right. Cut to Zedic’s close-up, and he’s back on the left. This problem occurs again in the poorly edited scene between Zedic and Nick at the end of the film. It is visually jarring and, frankly, something any cinematographer, script supervisor and/or director should be aware of during filming, let alone in the final edit.
The acting leaves quite a bit to be desired; everyone, save for Gary Ploski’s Zedic, seems to be trying way too hard to get their lines out. This leads to performances where each line seems to be from a separate scene or emotion, none of which work over the rhythm of a single scene. Sometimes line delivery is over-the-top, other times underwhelming considering the developments in the scene. Ploski fares better, but mainly because his role is very matter-of-fact and dry. He doesn’t show emotion at all, and his voice sticks in there with the choice.
The film’s effects-work is also very hit-or-miss. The on-the-street imagery with the red halos and Zedic’s end reveal work. The footage that the filmmaker decided to give a “cinema-look” to, employing dust and film scratches, seems out of place since the rest of the footage isn’t altered that way. Likewise the opening has a television scanline filter that equally has no payoff in the film; it’s like the filmmakers were just playing with effects plugins. The film also caps itself with a slow motion reaction shot that is comically awful. We’re talking about 30 seconds of bad.
Again, I understand the trappings of low budget filmmaking, and I see many films across a wide spectrum of budgets and skills; being low budget doesn’t equal “bad film” at all. But this isn’t a case of a film suddenly improving had it been able to utilize better equipment. The main problems with this film are in the story and the foundation of the filmmaking itself.
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