Masquerade [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Pastor Chris Billings and his wife are at odds and are secretly separated, even though Chris is set to take over as head pastor after the previous pastor, his former boss, is forced to step down after having an affair.  Little does he know that his son knows a lot more than he lets on, and Chris’ actions are having negative consequences he has no idea about.  Will the Billings family be able to be honest about their struggles, no matter the repercussions?


Production Quality (1.5 points)

As a film school project, Masquerade has a lot of positive elements, despite the limited budget.  Video quality and camera work are good considering the situation, even if there are other issues that come with the territory of a limited budget, such as inconsistent lighting and inconsistent audio quality.  The soundtrack is also lacking, and sets, locations, and props tend to be limited.  However, the editing is fine, which overall rounds out an average production that is an accomplishment for a film school project.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Although this story is sometimes hard to follow and is quite slow at times, there is an interesting idea here that could be further utilized in the future.  Though the characters could use some deepening through more substantial dialogue, they are at least partially realistic and are portrayed well as flawed people.  However, there are some other issues here, such as the unnecessary narration throughout and the number of boring scenes depicting characters talking without enough meaningful dialogue.  The ending is also a bit vague, although it makes a profound point.  In the end, Masquerade is like a starter idea for something greater that may or may not come.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As an amateur cast, the cast members can be somewhat robotic at times, even though they mean well.  Line delivery is a bit too textbook at times, and emotions tend to be underwhelming and flat.  Nonetheless, there is definitely potential here that could be brought out with better acting coaching.  There is also improvement throughout, and some cast members are better than others.  Overall, this rounds out a respectable effort.


With a better budget, a more dynamic plot and characters, and improved acting coaching, this creative team could be going places in the future.  Even if they don’t follow up on Masquerade, the idea of flawed church characters can and should be used in future films.  As always with these sort of plots, however, the characters need to be deep and meaningful.  It should be interesting to see what this team has planned next.


Final Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points



God’s Compass (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Suzanne Waters is giving her official retirement address from her position as a school principal, something happens that night that alters the path of her life and the path of her family.  Her daughter-in-law does into labor while en route back home and is saved by a would-be car thief.  Suzanne’s busy son, an ER doctor, has allowed himself to become swamped with work so much that he barely has time to care for his wife.  Everything changes for them when their baby is born with a potentially life-threatening condition.  As Suzanne tries to support her son and daughter-in-law, she also seeks out the now-arrested criminal who saved the life of her grandson.  Through God’s leading, she does the unthinkable and takes a huge step of faith that changes her life forever.


Production Quality (2 points)

Having good quality production elements was obviously a key focus of new filmmakers Stephan Schultze and Scott Curlee.  They used their somewhat limited resources wisely and focused on amplifying their strengths.  The video quality is fairly good throughout, as is the sound quality.  The camera angles are sometimes artistically enhancing and sometimes a bit odd and confusing.  There is some obvious CGI throughout, but it is not completely negative.  The soundtrack is very frustrating because it is sometimes very good and other times non-existent; it needed to be more consistent.  The sets and locations are simple yet realistic.  The editing is good considering the small scope of the plot.  Overall, this is an average production, but it’s really good for a freshman voyage.  Schultze and Curlee stuck to the basics and didn’t get too crazy, which is the most you can ask from new filmmakers.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the plot is small in scope and little bit too simplistic.  But there is also a creative element that underlines the story and is revealed through creative flashbacks.  Without these flashbacks, the story would be very drab.  Psychological elements such as these should be used more in Christian film, since they make the movie more than what it would have been in their absence.  The characters are few in number, but they are mostly well developed.  We would have liked to see a little more development since there aren’t very many, but they are adequate as they are.  The dialogue is simple yet believable.  There is only one minor twist in the plot, but everything that happens to the characters is very down to earth and accessible by all audiences.  The purpose behind the plot is clearly communicated without being too obvious—the same goes for the Christian message.  In the end, going with a simple plot to begin with is a good idea so you don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  We realize that complexity comes with time and experience, and we also know that God’s Compass will still be popular as it is in many Christian circles.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Having a solid cast in a rookie film is key.  Schultze and Curlee accomplished this.  Though it is small in size, they carry the movie on their shoulders.  Karen Abercrombie and T. C. Stallings remain to be solid cast members.  Jazelle Foster and Joey Ibanez show a lot of potential for the future.  Line delivery and emotional delivery are professional throughout.  The major drawback to this cast is Erin Bethea, as she is awkwardly inserted into the cast for no particular reason or function.  Also, Robert Amaya seems downplayed; it seems like he could have had a larger role.  Otherwise, this is a great casting job.


God’s Compass is a solid beginning to a promising film career.  ‘Solid’ is a word that can easily define this film.  It takes time and experience to make a groundbreaking film, especially when the budget is limited.  Schultze and Curlee did the right thing with a direct to DVD release and they made the right waves in the right places with Compass.  With more creativity coming down the pipe from Liberty University’s film department, we heartily expect even greater things in the future.


Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points