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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


"He's back from the war...but he can't stop killing!" Great tagline, though it doesn't give any hint of the thoughtful intentions underlying the gore in Andrew Copp's no-budget indie feature QUIET NIGHTS OF BLOOD AND PAIN (2009). Nothing wrong with a socially-conscious blood 'n' guts flick, of course, although here the different sensibilities tend to clash.

William (Loren S. Goins) is an Iraq war vet who's suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the horrors he's witnessed and the acts of violence and torture he was made to commit. This, unfortunately, is exacerbated by the fact that he's a raving loon who thinks he's still on a mission to eliminate all terrorists, traitors, and subversives from the streets of Hometown, USA. Meanwhile, Adrienne (co-producer Amanda DeLotelle), another troubled ex-soldier, is struggling with her own inner turmoil while seeking help from a sympathetic Viet Nam vet named Ray (Ray Freeland). After William foils an attempt by two assailants to rape Adrienne in an alley, he begins to stalk her.

DeLotelle is not a polished actress, but she seems to feel the character deeply and has a way of evoking our sympathy. In fact, Adrienne's story is the most interesting part of the movie and she has two or three scenes that are especially effective. DeLotelle's acting style is so unaffected as to seem remarkably natural--in several long takes she's able to hold our attention as she struggles through one emotional ordeal after another.

Goins, on the other hand, has a talent for expressing repressed rage that erupts in either wild screaming jags or swift, brutal violence. Both he and Adrienne are often seen agonizing over their inner demons in the solitude of their bedrooms. While she wakes up crying and contemplates suicide, he has fits of extreme animalistic fury that would give Travis Bickle pause. I like the part where he starts doing pushups and banging his head on the floor with each downstroke.

Andrew Copp is a capable director and this homage to the killer-vet films of yore, which had a total production time of almost two years, looks pretty good considering its budget. (Sound quality not quite so good--some dialogue is hard to make out.) Much of the effectiveness of individual scenes is, of course, largely dependent upon the actors he has to work with. Some are stiff, awkward, and/or just plain bad. Others get the job done well enough. Filmmaker and "Freak Forum" podcast host Henrique Couto gives a particularly realistic performance in his short role as a janitor being waterboarded to "confess" by William. I also liked Juliet Fromholt as the girl at the bus stop who, in a nicely-done scene, clumsily tries to engage William in a conversation about the war.

There's not much to the story besides showing us the lives of two emotionally-devastated but very different war veterans who eventually cross paths with tragic results. Copp's portrayal of their difficulty in fitting back into society after doing their duty is most effective when we see for ourselves the pain Adrienne and William are going through, and much less so via bland speechifying such as the kind heard at Ray's group counseling meetings or his private chats with Adrienne. The seemingly wise Ray's use of mind-altering drugs to help Adrienne find her "spirit guide" seems a little ill-advised, although this does lead to a pretty nifty hallucination sequence.

These "message movie" segments alternate with the splatter flick that QUIET NIGHTS also wants to be, and somehow it's not as interesting. In relatively tame scenes, we see William eliminating some war protesters and a couple of bookstore clerks displaying "subversive" titles, and in the main setpiece, he breaks into the house of a couple with "" bumperstickers on their car, ties them up, screams at them, and then dispatches them. Eventually, William gets it into his head that Adrienne has somehow betrayed her country and must be punished, and it's here that the bloody violence finally has some real impact. By the final shot and abrupt fadeout, the film has definitely made an impression.

Some of the wound makeup is good, especially the blood-spurting throat gashes, and there's a really effective burn makeup in the scene with William being negatively influenced by his deranged Gulf War-veteran brother Daniel (Copp). A disemboweling during the home invasion scene is distractingly less successful.

The movie was shot using a Panasonic DV-30 with an aspect ratio of 1.33. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a lengthy look at Copp's dark graphic art during a gallery exhibition, and trailers for this and three other Copp films.

As with most indie filmmaking on this budget level, the appeal comes from seeing how much the filmmakers are able to accomplish with so little to work with. If barebones production values and largely non-professional actors are a problem, you won't want to go near this. If not, however, then you may find it interesting to watch. With QUIET NIGHTS OF BLOOD AND PAIN, the gore is the least relevant factor while the characters are interesting and even a little moving.

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1 comment:

Coppfilms said...

Thank you for your comments. They are very much appreciated!!!