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.
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.
Before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was baptized by His cousin John and then set out to fast in the desert wilderness for forty days and forty nights. As He sought His Father’s will in the desert, Satan tempted Him in every way imaginable to try to derail His ministry before it started. As Jesus grew weaker and weaker and the devil became more and more relentless, the fate of humanity hung in the balance. Choices had to be made to bring the world back from the brink.
Production Quality (2 points)
It’s undeniable that time and money were spent to make Forty Nights a quality production. Camera work and video quality are professional. The audio quality is also on point, including an effective soundtrack. Shooting on location is excellently executed as the sets and locations are realistic. All of this is great, but it is detracted from by the glaring presence of cheap special effects, obvious CGI, and weird sound effects throughout. Sometimes these conventions are used to be ‘dramatic’ or something, but it really gives the film a cheesy feel. Overall, this is a fine production, but it would have been much better without the bizarre effects.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
What started out as an applaudable effort to create a unique Bible plot quickly became a trainwreck, unfortunately. The story rushes through Biblical events and alters some of them for convenience sake so that sensational extra-Biblical content can be focused on. Though the entire plot is based on dialogue, as it should be, it is too isolating and meandering. Often, the dialogue is extremely formal and Shakespearean to the point of not feeling like these are real people talking. Though there are some interesting philosophical conversations and ideas, they are not enough to outweigh the stoic and robotic nature of this plot. Also, this story commits the unforced error of implying that Jesus doesn’t know certain things and that Satan knows more than Him, probably in an attempt to make things more climactic or something. But it is unwise and irresponsible to insinuate such things and undermines the entire message. Finally, though the ending is fine and there is an overall good point somewhere in this film, it’s not enough to overshadow the glaring errors present here.
Acting Quality (.5 point)
However, the acting is perhaps the biggest element that drags this movie down. The only remotely good thing to say here is that the costuming is mostly realistic. Otherwise, this acting is far too theatrical and practiced. Line delivery is measured, stilted, and robotic. Emotions are flat and lifeless. Though the dialogue is a problem to begin with, we can’t even feel like these cast members are real people. This in and of itself makes this film basically unwatchable.
Unfortunately, Forty Nights basically boils down to The Book of Ruth with more money behind it. This was a really good idea that has been sadly wasted due to annoying acting and a thin plotline. Yet there are also other issues to discuss. These days, there seems to be an overdone effort to ‘humanize’ Jesus in film to the point that He is no longer omniscient. While I am not one to nitpick over theology, I believe this is a dangerous position to take. We know that Jesus certainly had physical limitations while on earth, but to believe that Satan ever knew more than He did is very dangerous. While Jesus was absolutely tempted in every way and while this is great to portray in a film, this was unfortunately not the way to do it. We realize that films need conflict and climax to be successful, but there is no human conflict within the person of Jesus Christ. There is never a good excuse to create a new gospel for the sake of drama.
Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points
Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review