MARCH 10, 2010
It’s sort of a disservice to filmmakers to give them a quote comparing their film’s twist to the one in Sixth Sense, because people like me who read it will then spend the entire movie trying to figure it out instead of just sitting back and enjoying the story. When I saw Sixth Sense, I didn’t know there was a twist, so I wasn’t looking for clues and such. But I couldn’t offer the same “ignorance” to Imprint, because the tell-tale "A plot twist every bit as shocking as Sixth Sense!" quote was right there on the back, which I read to make sure it was a horror film.
But it didn’t distract me away from liking the movie. In fact I quite enjoyed it. For starters it’s very steeped in Native American customs and culture (and features an almost entirely Native American cast), which is a unique setting for a horror film. And it applies a pretty atmospheric (read: “slow” compared to the usual J-horror remakes we get nowadays for ghost films) story to a character study of sorts, in which our heroine (Tonantzin Carmelo), who has more or less turned her back on her heritage, learns to appreciate it again. Again, it’s not the type of thing I see very often, and I liked that it wasn’t a political or socially heavy movie either. It embraces the culture without trying to convert the audience. And even better, since there’s no “outsider who needs everything explained” character, we don’t get a lot of dialogue explaining what people are doing. Filmmaker Michael Linn (writer, director, editor, producer, DP, and composer!) does a fine job of showing us certain customs (a medicine man clearing a house of spirits, for example) without over explaining OR leaving us in the dark. It’s a tough balance, I would think, but he pulls it off.
I also enjoyed the performances across the board, a rarity for a low budget independent horror film. Carmelo has a tough role - she needs to be sympathetic, obviously, but her character has somewhat abandoned her family (and, without spoiling specifics, turn against a family member), which aren’t exactly “good” traits for a person to have. And the supporting cast all feel natural in their roles. Even the lone white cast member, Cory Brusseau (playing Carmelo’s “big city” boyfriend), fits well. A lot of times I see these smaller films casting people who in no way resemble the type of character they are playing, but I bought everyone in their respective roles, and even believed that Carmelo could be the daughter of the two folks playing her parents.
The horror stuff gets a bit muddled though. The nature of the particular haunting (or, yes, “Imprint”) is a bit cyclical by design, and there’s only so much they can do without causing logic holes. The Sixth Sense comparison actually gave me the thought to wish they had a bigger thriller plot to distract me away from the twist-guessing attempts (for the record, I didn’t, but I was on the right track). In Sense, you were so wrapped up in Cole’s ghost seeing that you didn’t notice Malcolm’s peculiar habits, but Imprint doesn’t really have a “B story” (at least, not a horror/thriller one). And that’s ironic, because, without spoiling it, the ultimate denouement would actually lend itself to one, provided there were a few more characters involved with the story.
Then again, maybe there WERE; the commentary by Linn and a few others (producers) has frequent references to shelved story concepts and scenes (un-filmed, edited out, etc), though they never really go into details. But it’s a good track; they point out a few of the clues I had missed, defend the lack of scares in certain sections (the logic-keeping I mentioned), and the usual talk about shooting a low budget film. Note: the track is more or less an Easter Egg - it’s not mentioned on the back with the other extras (yet they found room for “Interactive Menus”), nor is it among the bonus materials on its (interactive!) menu, but rather in setup along with the subtitles. The other features are pretty slim; a making of that’s mostly behind the scenes stills set to music (the film’s score is fantastic by the way - I let the menus loop for quite a while), some typically unfunny bloopers, and a brief set of production notes. And it’s an MTI disc, so it has the hilariously terrible little theater animation at the top of the disc, the amateur quality of which should provide hope to hundreds of out of work graphic designers.
What say you?