Written by Joey Corpora (@JoeyCorpora)
I am a huge fan of all things corny, campy, and cult when it comes to movies. The cheesier the better! I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s film, and I’d like to have just as much fun writing this review as I had watching the film. So here goes:
Stranded is an intense 6-minute short film by Chris Giuseppini. The film incorporates a great mix of action, suspense, and horror that keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace and doesn't let up until the credits roll.
The film opens with three 20-something kids hunting in the woods. They aren't named in the film, so for sake of clarity I'll call them Elmer Fudd (brother), Lady Rambo (sister), and Newb (their friend).
Newb asks a bunch of questions, so it is clear that this is his first hunting trip. He asks why they brought a pistol if they're hunting with a bow and arrow, and Lady Rambo tells him that the arrow doesn't always do the job right the first time and the pistol "brings sanity to the kill." It's clear that even though she is only in her twenties, she has seen some hard stuff. Her actions and dialogue throughout the rest of the film indicate that she must be some kind of combat veteran who still thinks she’s battling in the trenches of ‘Nam.
The trio comes across a bloody tree and a dead carcass. Newb asks what killed it, but the siblings can only speculate, saying that even coyotes eat their kill, and none of their friends "hunt for the slaughter."
Before long they arrive at a crumbling hunting site. It doesn't look stable, so Newb takes that as his cue to climb to the top and jump around on the decaying planks, just to make sure. Of course, it's not stable and his foot goes through a plank, but the stability of their hunting spot proves to be the least of their problems.
A gunshot suddenly rings out and we cut away from Newb to see that Elmer Fudd has been shot in the gut.
Lady Rambo has seen this many times before and doesn't bat an eyelash at the fact that her brother just got a bullet in his belly. She calmly take out her pistol and "brings sanity to the kill" without a second thought. She doesn’t even trying to stop the bleeding or help her brother in any way, her first and only reaction is to shoot him in the face.
Newb (like the audience) is horrified when he hears her shoot her brother, but she's just getting started. She ditches the gun and charges into the woods after the killer with no protection other than a pocket knife, not even bothering to use the brush for cover.
Several shots are seen from a distance through a sniper’s scope, making it obvious someone is hunting these kids. We finally see their killer, a crazy sniper in full hunting gear who is crouched in the woods. He takes a few more shots at our heroes but misses. Newb ducks behind some planks and begins waving a stick around, perhaps assuming the hunter will mistake the stick for an animal. Unfortunately, the hunter knows the difference between a stick and a deer, and lowers his aim and starts shooting through the wood. One of the bullets hits Newb in the leg and he decides to stop waving the stick around.
Meanwhile, Lady Rambo has gone unnoticed despite charging directly at the sniper and faces him with a knife. She stabs him twice with that crazy cold-blooded killer look in her eyes and stands over his dead body with blood running down her face as the film ends.
The film provided a great mixture of hilarity and intensity. The filmmakers did an excellent job building the suspense to a crescendo before the final showdown. The quirkiness of the characters and the bland delivery of the lines helped build up the world of the cheesy horror the film was built around. I enjoyed the film very much, though I would have liked a bit more closure at the end. What happened to Newb? Did he and Lady Rambo survive? Did they take Elmer Fudd’s body to the police or does Lady Rambo have some crazy warrior death ritual she will need to perform on him? Will they both go to jail for murdering two people in the woods?
Only time (and hopefully a sequel) will tell.
I had a chance to speak with Chris about the film this week. Our interview is below:
Q: How did you get started in filmmaking?
I started making movies when I was around the age of 12. My cousins and I always tried to recreate scenes from movies such as Rocky, or Red Dragon, and eventually it grew to the point where I started coming up with my own stories. My experience with filmmaking really got bumped up a notch when I entered Shawnee High School in Medford New Jersey (South NJ). I joined our school's morning show and TV program as a freshman and learned all the skills of filmmaking and TV production that I will be taking to college at Montclair State University next year.
Q: Did you go to film school?
I've been a part of production classes in high school, and interned at a TV station my senior year where I've produced 2 documentaries, and had experience with live sports production. Next year I will attend Montclair State for a filmmaking degree. I'm 17 going on 18 later this month.
Q: Favorite films and Directors?
My favorite film is Gran Torino. Besides Clint Eastwood's amazing, and true to life performance, I feel that I really connected with the characters, and that's one of my favorite things when watching movies- connecting with characters. In terms of directors, I really try to take away from almost any movie I watch good or bad. To name a few that I've studied- Robert Rodriguez, Edward Wright, Christopher Nolan. My biggest influence by any director has been Steven Spielberg. I haven't seen every movie he's ever made, but from reading articles, watching his interviews and speeches, he's taught me so much about filmmaking, and I feel if there's anyone I can relate my passion to film for, it would be him.
Q: The most difficult part about making Stranded?
The movie was completed in entirely in under 2 weeks. To get specific 9 days with breaks in between I spent total on it. The purpose of me making this movie, and making it so quickly was because I wanted to add this in my portfolio. For MSU's film program there was an interview day where I had to present a selection of my work, and they decide on me along with an interview. I had more than enough I could show them to get accepted, but I felt I needed one more piece of the puzzle, that would become Stranded. My cousin Robert Fisher who is a professor in Missouri, came up with the original story idea. I took his story, and adapted it into a screenplay. I filmed over the course of two days, and then began editing and coloring. I found someone on Reddit, who was willing to make a custom score for the film. He made it entirely in one day. Everything came together the night before the interview, and it seemed to work, cause I got accepted! To sum up the question in one sentence, I'd say the most difficult part of it was putting everything together in such a short time period. I had to apply all of my previous knowledge as a filmmaker, and use it in this film.
Q: Is filmmaking your career path or a hobby?
Filmmaking will definitely be a career I pursue. When going into college everyone wants to be a director, and then by the time they are done school they decide on something else being right for them, whether it's lighting, editing, camera, etc. I'm not opposed to ever changing what my focus is, especially if it's a job I can earn consistent money in, but having so much experience with just about every department, I think I'm pretty solidified that I want to direct films. I enjoy making movies that allow people to have fun.
Q: Working on any new films?
Yes! My next film, is currently untitled, but it is going to me a dark comedy. I'm taking a lot of inspiration from the visual comedy works of Edgar Wright for this film. It was written by my cousin Robert Fisher, it's a 20 page script. For this film I wanted to take very seriously so I'm spending a lot of time on pre production. I casted students from the theatre program at my old high school for roles I think they will be able to execute well. This project will be new and challenging because Comedy and horror are two fields I have yet to explore deeply.
Q: Any advice?
Anyone that wants to make movies, needs to just go and do it. I'm 5 years in on making movies, and I'm still nowhere near professional. Every movie you make will improve your skill level, and your movies will get better. Constantly learn, constantly produce, but most importantly, have fun.