|DVD Experiment 519
Run time: 101 min
Genres: Action | Crime | Horror
Director: James Brandon Humphreys
Writers: James Brandon Humphreys
Stars: Justin Stewart, Jason T. Davis, Michael P. Hill
A small, southern town becomes the guinea pig for a government experiment. Once ‘Experiment 519’ is unleashed, what follows is bloodshed, mayhem and hysteria. Who will save the uninfected? Is there any way out of this horror-filled nightmare? Written by Anonymous
Review by Drive-In of the Dead
While it's not a perfect film, Blood Eagle Film's low-budget 'Experiment 519' is done with such energy and enthusiasm that you can't help but root for the filmmakers behind all the mayhem. The one thing I liked about 'Experiment 519' is that they weren't afraid to build a story; to invest in their characters and take the time to at least attempt to properly introduce each one. While this tends to slow down the pace, it helps the viewer connect with them when the sh*t hits the fan. However, I do feel like maybe a few too many characters were introduced, which spread the carnage a little too thin it was hard to keep track of who was who and new characters were being introduced even toward the end of the picture. By the half-way point I still wasn't sure who the star of the show was, which isn't a good thing when the plot is pretty basic (government experiment turns town into raving cannibals). And by the way what's with all of the crotch-grabbing going on in this movie? It seemed like all of the trailer-trash dudes gave a yank to their junk at least once (some multiple times). Did I miss something? Is this a gang sign? But I digress: as simple as the storyline was, I definitely appreciated some of the more subtle story arcs that were thrown in. For example: the history behind Constable Dixon and Chief McMahon was a nice touch. The way they butted heads but ended up working together was a groovy way to flesh out their back stories; and the good husband Larry turning out to be a deadbeat druggie was also a curve-ball that had me grinning.
'Experiment 519' does suffer from the 'one-step-forward, two-steps-back' syndrome though. Even thought I couldn't really identify with many of the drug-using crack-heads and redneck heathens found in the picture, I still recognized that many of these lowlifes do actually exist, unfortunately, in small towns across the Midwest. Yet for every time I felt like the drug-fueled story was really clicking, there would be technical issues that distracted me and took me out of the picture. My biggest beef was with the sound quality, which needed some serious dubbing on the dialog. Relying on a camera's built-in Mic to cover dialog is never recommended; so many of the conversations are lost in the mix by either being too low or being drowned out by hiss. Another technical aspect that didn't work for me was the lighting, which seemed glaring and relied too heavily on the everyday lights found in many of the locations. Turning on every light in a house to shoot a suspenseful scene just doesn't work to sell the fear, but acquiring proper studio-quality lighting rigs are probably a luxury that can't be afforded when it comes to the constraints of a meager budget so I can forgive that one. Also, while the story was somewhat involving, I found the editing to be a bit choppy in places with a couple abrupt cuts that could have benefited from some subtle scene transitions.
When the final experiment has been tested, I found 'Experiment 519' to have a whole lot of heart and plenty of charisma, but maybe one too many technical snafus that keep it from being more than a cult film. Still, director James Brandon Humphreys did an admirable job with what he had to work with and managed to craft a well-acted and creatively directed film that definitely entertains. I look forward to seeing what Blood Eagle Productions cooks up next. Let's fire up some 519!
NAUGHTY BITS: The producers of 'Experiment 519' wisely relied more upon their story than the gore. While we do get some CGI splatter effects and some messy flesh gnawing here and there, there isn't so much that it becomes a distraction. There are also some profanities and lewd dialog thrown into the mix, but sadly no bare necessities to back it up.
ACTING: The strongest aspect of 'Experiment 519' was its cast. Kudos to the producers for rounding up some credible talent it went a long way toward making this film a serious production. Justin Stewart as the town constable was simply terrific this guy has what it takes and was easily the anchor of the film. Jason T. Davis as Larry Calhoun was pretty solid as well. While it seemed like he was reaching for his lines every now and again, I thought for the most part he did an admirable job. Roger Eubanks as Bobby was another scene stealer I would have liked to have seen more of his character (his manic melt-down at his house was great), and Gina Pentz as Sally and Jacob Rohrich as the chief of police rounded out a surprisingly talented cast. There were some minor characters thrown into the experiment that were a little on the amateur side, but even their performances weren't so horrible that they derailed the production. Put it this way: I've seen worse! Nice job, folks.
DIRECTOR'S CHAIR: Hats off to director James Brandon Humphreys for his energetic approach behind the camera. While this wasn't the most stylized indie film I've ever seen, Humphreys definitely didn't just phone in the direction with a point-and-shoot approach that is so prevalent in many low-budget flicks today. Instead, we get some groovy shot compositions, some nice slow motion, some color filters that work, and interesting angles that help keep you invested in the picture. My only gripes were with the editing, which seemed rather crude at times, and the lighting, which seemed a bit too harsh (relying too much on overhead, fluorescent lights rather than being properly lit) but overall I thought Humphreys impressed. Well done let's do a round of shots!