Henry John and the Little Bug ****½
Having premiered at the Hollyshorts Film Festival in Hollywood on August 8th 2010, short film Henry John and the Little Bug emerged triumphant, going on to win awards in two categories, receiving both an Honourable Mention and taking home the Audience Choice Award for August 8th.
Okay, so they may not be the really big awards but the film’s screening at the festival has nonetheless brought attention to Las Vegas born filmmaker J.T. Mollner, who produced, wrote and directed the film, a filmmaker who shows considerable talent in this, his third short feature following horror Sunday Evening and thriller The Red Room, both from 2008.
Dinner time in a remote home of a prairie family – George (Mikos Zavros), Ada (Anne Ford) and Florence (Gabrielle Stone) – turns nightmarish when a band of blood spattered outlaws – Henry (Allen Kee/Duke Mollner), Charlie (Nathan Russell) and Joe (James DeBello) – break through the front door in search of food, horses, and women. Nothing is as it seems in this constantly twisting genre bender.
At first Henry John and the Little Bug seems poised to be exactly what you expect it to be – a brutal western and little more. In this aspect, it certainly delivers at a high standard, particularly for such a small production, with very good production values ranging from authentic looking costumes and sets to effective lighting and cinematography which utilises a drained palette to create a sepia look and feel which gives the film an old fashioned look and the only colours being really emphasised are dark reds which give more impact to the blood that flows on a couple of occasions, the red really popping out as a result and the violence being quite brutal but never overly so. The dialogue also sounds period authentic and the actors deliver it with very convincing accents, everyone in the cast delivering strong performances, particularly Mikos Zavros, Anne Ford, Gabrielle Stone and Duke Mollner, and other good performances coming from actors who appear later but whom I can’t say much about for risk of giving away details of the plot. The plot also proves adequately solid if unmemorable until a certain development arises that proves too hard to buy into. This development, however, is a ploy and a very smart one that leads into what the film really is. I can’t say much without giving the game away but what comes after this particular development takes the film in a whole new and entirely unexpected direction, the plot repeatedly changing style with new twists and turns being thrown right at you, keeping you intrigued till the very end. The plot proves smart, original and surprisingly complicated and, just when you’ve got it all figured out, it surprises you with its multi layered narrative that turns out to be nothing remotely like what you would expect from the way the film started. So, Henry John and the Little Bug is a revelation of a film. It promises one thing and delivers something else so much better – a film for the thinking person. As a filmmaker J.T. Mollner has definitely got what it takes to be successful and here’s hoping that his next film, a one take war movie entitled Sugartown is as good as this one.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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