Coming to select theaters and streaming services January 1, 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated
Writer(s): DJ Perry
Director(s): Jesse Low
Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, David Gries Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, Jesse Low, John Mashni DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster
Starring: Melissa Anschutz, Shane Hagedorn, Victoria Jackson, DJ Perry, Josh Perry, Don Most, Christine Marie, Dean Teaster, Anthony Hornus, Melissa Anschutz, Lauren LaStrada, Michael Rene Walton, Abigail Mason, Greg Mason, Tonya Hawkins, David Gries
Plot summary: Hannah, a burnt out, mega-music star, returns to her small Northern Michigan hometown of Lost Heart, for her estranged father’s funeral. There she will confront the ghosts of her past and perhaps find her peace and balance once again.
Longinus was raised by the Magi, but he never fully believed the stories they told of the Messiah as he rose through the ranks of the Roman army. he was at the pinnacle of his career, but an injury led to blindness, forcing him out of service. As he languished in darkness with a servant to guide his daily activities, he never dreamed that his life would be forever changed when he helped end a seemingly meaningless crucifixion of the One they called the King of the Jews.
Production Quality (2 points)
Over time, DJ Perry and his creative have definitely improved their production skills as The Christ Slayer demonstrates good camera work, effective camera angles, and professional video quality. The audio quality is also fine for the more part, and the soundtrack is culturally authentic. While the sets, locations, and props are great, the outdoor scenes are better since some of the indoor shots are a bit too dark and disorienting. Some of the editing could have been more consistent and understandable, but on the whole, this production is adequate and shows commitment to improving.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
The Quest Trilogy has taken many different turns, and at this point, the ending is better than the beginning. At its inception, some parts were hard to grasp and a bit too abstract, but the unique turn in The Christ Slayer definitely helped things. This is a unique extra-Biblical plot that gives a fresh perspective on the events surrounding the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, and it sports the typical abstractly creative concepts of the CDI team. The spiritual elements from Forty Nights and Chasing the Star are included in this third installment, but they are presented in more accessible fashions. Similarly, the psychological themes of The Christ Slayer are fairly well-utilized, and integration of Biblical accounts is creatively woven together with the main plot. There are a few drawbacks, however, that keep this plot from being all that it could be. For instance, there are quite a few slow scenes that tend to be too artistic such that the audience has trouble understanding them, and some of the characters’ dialogue is a bit archaic and drawn-out. There are some expository conversations that replace better character development, and sometimes, the Jesus character is a bit too ethereal and inaccessible, but as a whole, this is a fine Easter plot that demonstrates unique storytelling.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Probably the brightest spot of this film’s cast is the awesome idea to cast a special needs cast member in a role that doesn’t over-emphasize his condition. Treating him as a regular actor is a huge step forward for disability rights, so this creative team’s decision to do this shows a deeper care for inclusion in the arts. Elsewhere in this cast, some of the main cast members are good while some could use more efficient coaching to avoid being too theatrical and dramatic. As a whole, the acting is average, but it could have been better if emotions were more accessible. In the end, The Christ Slayer is a good end to the Quest Trilogy.
DJ Perry and company have a lot going for them, so it will be interesting to see how they will be able to collaborate with other talent in the future. Throughout their careers, they have only gotten better as they have adapted and changed, which is encouraging to see. Sometimes trilogies end worse than they begin, so since the Quest Trilogy has ended on a good note, this will hopefully be a springboard to better things in the future for CDI entertainment.
Coming in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated
Writer(s): DJ Perry
Director(s): Anthony Hornus
Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, Deborah Bennett David Gries, Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, John Mashni, DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster
Starring: Don Most, Tim Abell, DJ Perry, Melissa Anschutz, Christine Marie Dean Teaster, Garry Nation, Kimberly Harsch, Shane Hagedorn, Sammy A. Publes, Robert Henline, John DeMarco, David Gries, Lauren LaStrada David Michael Reardon, Austin Two Feathers, Walker Fairbanks Robert Bradley, Greg Mason, Anthony Hornus
Plot summary: An engaging tale that shows the parallels between the treatment of wounded military veterans and ‘last chance’ shelter dogs.
After the Civil War, Emmett returned to his hometown to take care of the widow of one of his fellow troops in order to fulfill a promise he made. Emmett and his son live with the African-American widow and her daughter, which causes them extra scrutiny in the corrupt small town they live near. Emmett’s father-in-law, the local pastor, is against him, as are several other colorful characters. Everything comes to a head one day when the circus train breaks down in the forest and unwittingly releases wild beasts into the woods. The children are caught in the middle of the animal escape and a kidnapping plot aimed at hurting Emmett, and it will take wild faith to overcome to dark night before them.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
For years, DJ Perry, Shane Hagedorn, and their team have struggled with poor production quality and overly artistic attempts. However, while the artistry is still present in Wild Faith, a higher production level has finally been achieved. This is evidenced by great camera work and video quality even in the realistic and complex war scenes. There are great action shots, as well as historically authentic sets, props, and locations. Audio quality is also great, and the soundtrack is creative. The only nitpick to raise here relates to some slightly confusing editing, but this is a small issue compared to the great improvement that has been shown here. Perry and Hagedorn have proven that never giving up and working to improve pays off in the end.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Though the beginning of this plot is a bit disorienting at first, if you stick with it, things begin to make more sense. Where the characters are a bit raw at first, they become more realistic as time progresses with the exception of the cheesy villains. Some of the dialogue is a bit vague at times, but there are also some good conversations throughout that reveal character motive, which is a rarity to find in Christian film. The overall plot structure of this film is fairly unique and creative as it effectively uses flashbacks and other psychological elements to keep things interesting. This story is a great attempt to be different rather than the typical inspirational fodder, but there are some opportunities for improvement especially in the areas of character refinement and storyline organization. Some of the dialogue is a bit obvious at times, but Wild Faith takes an honest look at corrupt small town Christianity and the pain of racism after the Civil War. Overall, this film shows a lot of potential in this team.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
Surprisingly, the acting of this movie is also fairly good. This DJ Perry character is likely his best performance to date. Shane Hagedorn starts out a bit rough at first, but his character is a slow burn and begins to refine as it goes on. The villain cast members are fairly poor and drag down this score, and there are a few overdone emotional moments, but on the whole, this is a good acting performance that caps off a suprisingly enjoyable film.
We always look for improvement across films, and we are always glad when Christian film makers don’t give up and continue to try things. Experience is hopefully going to lead to improvement, as is listening to constructive criticism. The Perry and Hagedorn team has wandered in the film wilderness for a few years now, from Ashes of Eden to 40 Nights and Chasing the Star. To be honest, I did not have high hopes for Wild Faith when it was first sent to me, but I was pleasantly surprised. Whether or not this film becomes a series, it is clear that this creative team has a lot of potential in front of them, so it will be interesting to see what they produce next.
Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah. Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod. They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be. Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things. However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing. Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited. Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around. In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated. There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean. A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements. This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational. It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks. Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue. However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery. There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation. The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work. Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.
Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea. We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this. They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile. Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.