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.

Bringing the Mediasaurs Back

So, the Mediasaurs has been dead for a few years.  There are many explanations for this.  Please read on.

1. First and foremost, it is HARD to try to eke out a living online.  I did all of the right things, but i just couldn't get to a level with the Mediasaurs where I really felt like I was getting anywhere.  So I had to get a real job (with real benefits).

2. I have been disillusioned by pop culture. 

This is true.  I haven't seen a series of decent films in years.  By "series" I don't mean, "Star Wars" or, "Harry Potter," what I mean is a series, a season maybe, of decent films.  The general product that is coming out of a-list Hollywood is in need of a lot of help. 

Now I have always been a fan and champion of the independent films that are out there.  I cut a LOT of slack to independent filmmakers, but in all truth, most aren't delivering decent product. 

Initially, I thought that there would be more "diamonds in the rough" than there have been.  Finding a decent movie that fires on all cylinders is a hard thing to do.  I basically got tired of slogging my way through mediocrity.  I hate a bad movie, and I hate a bad movie more if there is nothing quotable or cool underneath the lack of budget, plot and acting skills.

3. I have been writing other things.

First and foremost, I am a writer.  I have been writing up a storm, I just haven't been publishing it online.  I've been in the middle of a novel, some short stories and a few different screenplay hustles since I have been away.  Also, there is this Philip K. Dick project that I have been working on.

I have a voice.  I know I have a voice.  Sometimes, I need to just keep a leash on that voice for a stretch and work out concepts in my journals before I drop them online.

4.  Mediasaurs left a strange taste in my mouth.

This is one of the more honest things you will ever read on this blog, so brace yourself.

My eldest son and I started the Mediasaurs.  He was a sophomore in high school and he was in need of some attention and a project.  We came up with this thing and pushed it through. 

Push came to shove though, and my son moved out of the house and moved on with his life.  With that came his abandoning of the Mediasaurs.  I continued it with the hopes that he might come back, or we might be able to heal some rifts between us through working together, but that wasn't goin to happen.  The Mediasaurs became representative of all of the angst and bad-will that were piling up between my son and myself, and I just couldn't enjoy it anymore.

Going forward I plan on updating the Mediasaurs blog fairly regularly.  Especially if I see something that I really like. Again, it won't just be limited to film, but it will be a showcasing of the things in pop culture that have gotten my attention.  However, I am not going to be online, updating the front pge of a website and hustling links all over the place to secure more hits.  I am just going to relax and let it go.  If there are no updates for weeks on end, then you, gentle reader, will know that there is nothing out there that interests me enough to write about.

For example, video games.  I feel that the medium is bloated and sloppy.  Why can't real writers write the stories that become video games?  I have played through many different PS2 and PS3 games of late where at the end, I feel ripped off, because someone who didn't know how to write, somehow got paid to pen together a swiss-cheese story.   In fact, I was out of state on vacation, and I had the distinct epiphany that I hadn't played any form of video game in over two weeks!  Coupled with that revelation was the knowledge that there really wasn't a video game at the Gamestop that I wanted enough to learn how to play it. 

PS4?  I still haven't finished harnessing all of the PS3 goodness.  I just don't see a PS4 happening in our household anytime soon.

So maybe you won't be seeing too many video game reviews, but hopefully, I will do a better job of keeping this place alive over the next stretch.

Yes, the Mediasaurs have been dead for a few years, but I'm not done with the concept quite yet.