Sunday, July 27, 2014

ALTERED, A really dark movie by my friend Kely McClung

I consider my friend, writer/director/actor Kely McClung, one of the most professional filmmakers out there.  He means business with his product.  I have felt that my dealings with him in regards to his craft have been like crash information courses on how to make a well-crafted independent film.

I have spent hours on the phone with Kely, discussing how to market his products, and hearing the woes of film production.  Kely always remains upbeat, draws on a strength from somewhere, and continues making movies, because that's what he loves doing.

The product that Kely brings to the table is always good.  The actors are acting, not struggling. The camera usually finds the most interesting angle to work from and delivers.  The sets are always superior.  An example is the graffiti'd-out, abandoned-building set in KERBEROS that is almost as fascinating to watch as the actors onscreen.  When KELY started telling me about where he was going to be filming his new horror show called ALTERED, I was excited.  Abandoned churches? The seedy sidestreets of Chicago?  I was totally in.

I'd also been sent the script, so I knew what I was in for.  I knew that there were multiple storylines featuring the same actors, in different "altered" universes, all working their way through a variety of disturbing sequences.  In fact, when Kely sent me the screener, I trashed all of my regular plans for my Thursday night with my writing crew and I sat them down and forced them to watch the latest film done by my friend.

We were all rendered speechless, and that was several months ago.

What Kely has brought to the table with ALTERED is something that I was not (and am still not) prepared for.  ALTERED has the same high-production value, and those same elevated acting chops that I have come to expect from a Kely McClung film. However, I'll be damned if I am going to watch it again.  In short, ALTERED is just too dark for me.

There is an R-Rated sensibility that movie-watchers soon master.  The sensibility is that certain bad things will stop at the last second.  The knowledge that the viewer won't have to go over the cliff headlong into an abyss of negativity.  The hope that there will be someone who will save those that suffer.  ALTERED, because of its multiple storylines and general mission is rarely nice to the viewer in the aforementioned departments.  If there is a concept out there that offends you or hurts your feelings in some way, there is a good chance that said concept is in ALTERED. 

Kely has dug deep into the depraved areas of the human psyche and has delivered a film that crosses most of my comfortable barriers.  In fact, had I known that this film was going to hit me as hard as it did, I would not have watched it.  Furthermore, I had been warned.  I'd seen the script.  I knew more or less what was coming.  But I was in no way prepared for the final delivery.

Kely's no-holds-barred storytelling and film-direction are dangerous, dangerous tools in the case of ALTERED.  Whereas, I understand the level of depravity that Kely has corralled in this film, I am also troubled by what it does to myself personally.  Am I weak and milquetoasty simply because I can't take the vision that Kely is trying to articulate?  Shouldn't I be able to shrug off the deepening layers of moral vacuousness that Sarah (Amanda Dreschler) experiences?  I would think that with the amount of hard-hitting film that I have consumed over my life, that I shouldn't be as jangled as I am at the core about ALTERED, but that's not the case.  When I finished watching the film, I found myself to be profoundly disturbed.

ALTERED takes the viewer to places no one really wants to go, and forces a lingering at those locations for abusive stretches of time.  Part of what Kely has done here is what he set out to do: get a reaction.  However, in the case of this reviewer, the reaction was that of a recoil.  I don't want to know anything more about this mean little world that has been constructed.

Kely has told me in the past that he wants to make movies that are worth talking about over pie and coffee afterward.  ALTERED is such a film. 

In fact, I threw my guts into an email to Kely, telling him sincerely that I didn't like his movie.  I told him that I wasn't going to review it either.  This that you are reading is the closest I am going to get to reviewing ALTERED.  But in retrospect, what I am aware of is that I don't like the reaction that ALTERED forced me to have.

All of the pieces of ALTERED are laid out in the order for a great film. Rob Pralgo pulls it off as a bent priest. Kely McClung pulls off his role as an anger-worshipping ass-kicker.  The formerly mentioned Amanda Dreshler also gives a painfully raw performance as a woman in multiple abusive realities.  Unfortunately, I simply do not have the intestinal fortitude to go through this film again and give you more details than what I have already presented.

The tagline for ALTERED is that "Good never fades and Evil never dies."  This is true, I just didn't realize that I was going to be dealing with an evil that is so close to home that I simply would rather not see it presented.  What has happened to me through watching this film though is that I have myself been ALTERED, and I'm thinking that is the result Kely was after all along.