‘Blood on the Plain’ packs ample promise into a short runtime

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Blood on the Plain
Directed by Mac Eldridge
Written by Angel Esparza
2012, USA

Film school can be a rough place. Everybody is working to try and show off what they can (or at least what they think they can) do, and as a result, sometimes it’s a struggle to get anything done at all. You slave, you adapt, you fund with funds you just don’t have, and at the end of the day sometimes you have to close up shop, because its not going to happen.

But sometimes, if you stick to your guns and don’t bail, you get something that ends up being worthwhile. Blood on the Plain is a great representation of one of those times.

Directed by Mac Eldridge, a recent graduate of DePaul University’s digital cinema program, Blood on the Plain is a short film that tells the story of a school dance under attack by strange creatures that hide on the outskirts of their Kansas town. It’s brief, but it packs a hell of a punch. And when the credits roll, disappointment sets in because you realize that you’re not getting any more.

A big part of why Blood works so well is because it has no qualms about playing around with genre. The story meshes a western with a creature feature, something that isn’t entirely unlike last summer’s disappointment, Cowboys & Aliens. But unlike that one, Blood delights in maintaining an understanding of both of its genres, and finds a balance between both of them, ensuring that the audience gets the best of both worlds. On one hand, there’s a quiet darkness to it that you’d find in a film like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, and perhaps even Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. But it still manages to have the outrageous fun that one might expect during a Roger Corman production, or even a film like From Dusk Til Dawn. Neither practice ever overtakes the entire production.

Though the entire cast and crew does their jobs incredibly well, and proves just how much talent there is out here that Hollywood isn’t grabbing a hold of, it’s Angel Esparza and his fantastic script that will probably remain the unsung hero. Simply put, it’s pitch-perfect. It goes big and frantic at the right moments, but is never in your face, and often takes its time without slowing down too much and risking boredom. And the dialogue is fantastic, going over-the-top at times but never being anything less than a blast to listen to. Overall, it gives such a great sense of setting, even if it feels dramatized at points.

Unfortunately, it’s not a film without its flaws. And without a doubt, the biggest shortcoming would have to be the ending. Because Blood is meant to be a pitch for a full-feature, the conclusion is anything but definitive. Truth be told, it leaves the viewer wanting more and that could be a big assist in securing funding for a full project. But maybe it would have been wise to make the short feel a little more stand-alone, and not have such a cliffhanger ending. Because we have to be real, and what if they never get to expand on it?

Though they should. There’s a lot of talent at work here, and the result is something pretty special. Blood on the Plain is straight-up fun. Western fans will enjoy it, and creature lovers will get a chance to see some great work done on a minimal budget. Everybody, aspiring filmmakers especially, should give it a watch. And that won’t be a problem, because you can just head over to their website and download your very own copy for just $3.99.  So drop some cash and help support independent film. It’s worth your time.

William Bitterman

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