Edwin “Ted” Everhart ‘09, Davis Bennett, and Tim Chi didn’t want to make a normal film. “Western Decadence” is not a film that is supposed to please.
“We don’t like the audience very much and we kind of wanna punish them,” said Bennett.
“We feel that people really need to see this movie, some people’s worlds are a little too safe and they feel like the universe makes too much sense,” added Everhart. “It’s anti-therapy for people who are too strong with their God.”
We are told at the beginning “You don’t apologize for being a man,” and this is a film which really doesn’t apologize for itself.
Shot on location at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke this summer, the film was the result of random planning. With a video camera, a few hours of
Storyboarding, the three actors, directors and camera-men set off to make a movie. “It was just for shits, really,” Chi explained.
Chi is a senior at UNC and Bennett is a senior at Duke.
The movie tells the story of Macduff Banquo (Everhart), a space-station scientist on the International Space Station who escapes when the station is blown out of the sky. Narrowly avoiding death, the bespectacled spaceman discovers that the mysterious Zhenq (also Everhart), an arms dealer with no morals, is responsible for the death of his comrades and the “Peace-Cloud Project” they have been working on. Armed with the data Banquo has saved on a VCR tape and some spurious muscles, he sets out to find and destroy the Obama-pin wearing Zhenq. Bennett described the Obama pin as “a cheap trick to fuck with the audience’s expectations.”
Zhenq, on the other hand, sends his henchman, Klaus (Bennett) out to find and destroy Banquo. Banquo, aided by the infanticide King Donnelbaine (also Bennett) must outwit Zhenq in order to exact revenge. “The starting point and the ending point is revenge,” Everhart said, “but we didn’t really have a point for it.” Everhart said that most of the characters were named after characters from Macbeth. The storyline, too, evolved as it progressed, although Everhart said that the beginning came to him in a dream that he had this summer.
Of course, “Western Decadence” suffers from the problems of any student film; with no budget or funding, the producers have used shots from computer games, footage from other movies, pictures and models of aeroplanes to make this work.
“It has an intentionally Low-Fi feel due to limitations,” said Chi. However, some special effects come off very well; the fight scenes are well-executed and the blood in the torture scene is pretty horrific. The soundtrack is also very good (although much of it is “stolen” from other films), and smooths out some of the awkward silences that ensue from not having a script. Indeed, the film’s main problem is scripting, or lack thereof. Often there are problems with the way that jokes and lines are delivered; the actors seem so self conscious that they are being corny that they drift into the realm of the ironic and the viewer cannot suspend his/her disbelief. But it’s not all bad, some parts are very funny and strange; the execution child in a cardboard box that is stamped on by Banquo cannot fail to bring a smile to the face of the viewer for its absurdity and utter lack of reflection. The crew’s dark humour definitely pays off at such points.
“Western Decadence” is playing in Saybrook at 7pm in the Saybrook Underbrook Theatre. Be warned, though, there is a lot of violence and graphic nudity; Chi’s younger sister who acted in one of the scenes is not allowed to watch it until she’s at least eighteen.