As they approach the end of childhood, three elementary school kids must brave the woods on Halloween to face a monster born from their nightmares.
Dan John Witherall
It generally doesn’t give me any kind of immense pleasure to rip a bad film a new one. There are certainly levels of – what would you call it – guilt? But I always remind myself that when a distribution company or filmmaker puts their film out there, then, like the ’80s sitcom The Facts of Life, they have to “take the good and take the bad”. You’re basically asking for feedback. So while I am offering suggestions (or non-suggestions) to the general audience through my reviews, I’m also offering notes to the filmmakers on what did and didn’t work in their film. In other words, you asked for it.
Lost Creek is a new horror indie from writer/director Colin Adams-Toomey and co-writer Dan John Witherall and will fall as close to the aforementioned “bad” area of the quality spectrum as it can get.
I never feel the need to sugarcoat, as these thoughts are just my opinion, but Lost Creek is absolutely all over the place and not in a good way.
The film follows young Peter (Oliver Stockman) and his recent relocation to a new town, following his parent’s bitter divorce. He lives with his mother Claire (Lisa Coruzzi) and has had a tough time making friends. His only buddy is Bill (Henry Stockman). Peter often retreats to the solitude of a creek in the middle of a deep woods called Lost Creek. As Halloween approaches, he meets a young girl named Maggie (Brynna Bartoo) in the woods and they become instant friends. But Maggie has a secret (which we figured out immediately upon her arrival on-screen) and there is also the lingering spectre of some sort of monster in the woods. The closer it gets to Halloween, the more random people begin to disappear in this small town. It’s left up to Peter, Bill and Maggie to solve the mystery and save the day.
Child actors. Let’s discuss, shall we? Probably one of the best examples of a mega-talented and authentic ensemble of kid actors comes in the form of Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. Now, I’m sure I’ll receive some guff for saying this – although I liked Wil Wheaton for most of the film – he was the weakest link in that cast. But as an acting group, I challenge anyone to name a film with a more striking and believable cast of young actors – unless you bring up the recent child actor ensemble in the Netflix juggernaut Stranger Things.
What’s my point? Well, if your entire film revolves around three pre-teen kids (in the case of Lost Creek), then you better damn well find the best actors. Is it gonna be tough? Certainly. Is it gonna be impossible? Perhaps. Did your search for young actors to portray the characters in your Lost Creek project yield talented fruit? No. No it did not.
Now, I could make excuses and go on about how young and green these actors are (this is the first film for all three of these child actors), but it does no one any good to walk on eggshells.
Every single actor in this film was terrible. I was unable to find even one moment of authenticity from anyone (and that includes the adult actors). And on the topic of the adult actors, Lisa Coruzzi as Peter’s mother, was working very hard against either a British or Australian accent. But her American didn’t quite ring true. There was also the complete lack of chemistry between Stockman and Coruzzi. I didn’t believe for a second that they were a mother/son team.
The editing in the film was distracting. More than a few times, shots would linger long after it felt right. Case in point – when Peter and Bill are walking home with a box of Halloween toys and decorations, there’s a close-up of the box and it holds the shot for just that extra second – and it’s noticeably odd. And this extra-long gaze on things, happened several more times. It’s inorganic and the sign of a bad editor. Also in that same scene, a grating continuity error reveals itself; as a big deal is made of Peter placing a toy vampire bat into his backpack – only to then have it back in his hand – and then again back in the bag. The devil (devil bat in this case) is in the details!
As for the story, it was all over the place. The explanations (tons of exposition arrived during the climax) were long-winded and convoluted.
The other major problem with the film – there was zero urgency to the proceedings. It never went above 1 mile per hour and that makes for an awfully boring and painful screening scenario. Other than one moment involving the kitchen window, the “boo” moments didn’t work.
I don’t know what the film was trying to do. There was prime real estate to be exploited – with Peter making heads or tails of his parent’s divorce and the guilt that a child might carry with them after a parent’s split, but it was never used to any great effect. Instead, the story just meanders along and what was discussed as “a monster” in the woods, suddenly becomes several monsters chasing after our threesome. Again, the film didn’t know what it wanted to be and didn’t know how to achieve what it thought it should be.
You know one of my over-used catchphrases, so say it with me now, “It all has to start on the page.” And with a wishy-washy and uninspired script, the project was doomed to fail long before the acting and production shortcomings came to be.
Look, I can see that the folks behind Lost Creek put their heart and soul into their project. I can see that in most every film I review. But if your film fails, I can’t be swayed by good intentions or give it a pass because the cast is a group of young and green, first-time actors.
The film didn’t work on any level. I pride myself on finding something positive in every film I see, but this one will be tough. Okay, some of the monsters and a couple of the shots were slightly creepy, but that’s it. Oh, and the location of the creek where Maggie and Peter meet is beautiful and nicely captured/exploited by the filmmakers. Anything else? Nope.
Quite simply, Lost Creek is lost in a swirling sea of uncertain writing, bad acting and amateur filmmaking.
The film played at several film festivals, but no wider release information is yet available.