Is This Scrappy Indie the Summer’s Best Blockbuster So Far?

07/06/2011 4:00 AM |

Fading of the Cries

Directed by Brian A. Metcalf

Brian A. Metcalf is like one of those little dogs convinced it has a big dog’s body. The writer-director’s Fading of the Cries, a fun horror fantasy, feels like a blockbuster despite its indie budget, demonstrating the first-time feature-director’s professional experience as a photographer, storyboarder, and visual effects supervisor on myriad shorts and advertising projects. The movie tells an archetypal story of an ordinary girl plucked from obscurity and placed in extraordinary circumstances: Sarah (Hallee Hirsh) is strolling somnolent streets, sipping stolen spirits with her bestie, when a zombie mob attacks; she’s rescued by a sword-wielding protector (Jordan Matthews), who whisks her around town while they’re attacked by more zombies and also demons, all commanded by Mathias (Brad Dourif), a sorcerer who wants back a powerful necklace—like many fantasy narratives, the movie hinges on a magic piece of jewelry (which is totally not a ring)—from Sarah, stolen from him by her uncle (Thomas Ian Nichols), whose destructive descent into magic unfolds in parallel flashbacks.

Phew. Within this fantasy-with-hints-of-Twilight context, Metcalf efficiently employs every cliche in the horror movie canon: zombie armies, flocks of birds, blade-wieling psychopaths—Romero, Hitchcock and Carpenter, all nodded to in turn. (There’s also a Gothic mansion possessed by evil spirits, which honors horror’s hoarier pre-Romero era.) Metcalf knows his genre—”I specifically had [Dourif] in mind many years ago when I saw him in The Exorcist 3,” he told one interviewer; he has a knack for nightmarish masking and costuming, and creates awesome effects, like the man-shaped monster who instantly dissolves into a murder of crows. But Metcalf’s chief talent is in balancing contrasting moods: getting and keeping all actors and crew on the same level, he maintains a tone at once earnest and exaggerated, reminiscent of an 80s Spielberg production. Much of the acting might seem amateurish, the writing sometimes overwrought, but Cries never feels compromised, despite its humble origins and limited means—not unlike the scrappy heroes it glorifies.

Opens July 8