When given an independent low budget film to screen, you have to look at the film through a different set of eyes. You have to leave the big budget Avatar eyes aside and sit back and try and soak in what the filmmaker was attempting based on their obvious limited resources and even less money.
In the most independent of films a writer/director often wears other production hats. It is fairly common to find a writer/director/producer/editor/actor credit on the most autonomous of films. After all, how else are you going to get a vision on screen with a budget that doesn’t match Kevin Smith’s weekly grocery bill?
For all the independent films I have screened over the years, I have to admit to being a rather harsh critic. Too many times, great DVD cover art has sucked me into my favorite leather chair in hopes that the film might live up to the potential of its packaging. And too many times I have ended the experience thinking that my nephews’ grade 5 drama class could have presented me with better entertainment.
For these reasons, Kuriosity Killz, a film by Trey McGriff, didn’t stand much of a chance. Trey contacted me a few weeks ago and kindly requested my attention to his independent film sending me a copy in the mail. What took forever to arrive was now mine to own and enjoy.
Perusing the credits on the back of the DVD sleeve, I was not surprised to see the McGriff name in constant repetition. Trey stars, supervises the music, writes, directs, edits and produces Kuriosity Killz - a black and white short film about a fun loving blonde named Candy (Caron Alisha McGriff) who thinks she has found a friend through the internet. Her eventual meeting is with a bachelor named Ray Junior (Trey McGriff) and her evening will slowly unfold into a night of terror.
After some pleasant conversation and a few date-mixed drinks, Candy finds herself tied to a chair and left in the company of Ray Junior’s brother, Danny, who dons a ski mask and wields a large knife around his hapless prisoner. Candy’s story is documented on Ray’s personal camera and his video will ultimately reveal an evening of survival for all those involved.
Kuriosity Killz was a strange film experience. It is slightly flawed and incorporates some of the devices of privately shot films that usually get my back up in pouncing formation. The story is mildly entertaining but doesn’t delve too deep into content despite a running time that would suggest urgency.
Yet, looking beyond the content of the story and valiant yet inexperienced actors, there were more things to like in Kuriosity Killz than I find in most films of the same ilk.
With a story and two characters that don’t have much time to develop, I spent most of the experience looking beyond the script and focused my attention on the production as a whole. Here, Kuriosity Killz stands above its peers.
The first thing you will notice is the soundtrack and musical score. The music by Trey McGriff, Hills Rolling and SomeWhere OutHere was very effective and if I closed my eyes, I could have imagined a John Carpenter film playing in the background.
In terms of camera work, I am not ready to hand out Ridley Scott awards to Mr. McGriff, but he does effectively use close-ups – in particular of Candy’s face – and other filming techniques to his advantage. By getting in close to both the characters and various props such as shower heads and drinking glasses, he projects a sense of intimacy which is felt between his characters and the viewing audience.
Shots of Ray Junior drinking beer or looking into the camera utilizing off angles show that McGriff is not trying to simply produce a film that is steady and routine, but instead, is attempting to be more stylish than ordinary mainstream standards. You don’t have to look much further than the decision to keep the film in black and white to demonstrate that McGriff doesn’t mind being different.
There are still some rough edges to the 19-minute short and even for a film that can be watched three times in an hour. There are a few scenes that could have been overhauled or truncated and some of the dialogue does feel forced. But the same could be said of any film. And thankfully, the confidence that is projected by lead Trey is enough to keep you interested through the head scratching bits.
I would be very much interested to see what Trey might do with more time, money and experience. Kuriosity Killz has enough style here to wish for bigger and better. Bravo Trey McGriff. More please.