Drifter: Joe Sherlock Day
Dir. Joe Sherlock (2014)
A drifter moves into a murder house and finds that the house is what’s driving people to murder. He kills, and kills, and kills again as a realtor tries desperately to sell the place off.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Joe Sherlock was kind enough to give me a collection of his movies to review, and I wanted to start with the first one on the list, Drifter. The movie opens with a weird introduction from an old-school, cable tv presenter introducing the film, telling us that we might be scared but we need to keep watching the screen, and to keep our eyes peeled or he’ll peel it for us. It’s an awesome reference to the Saturday scary movie show that a lot of us grew up watching. Then we get a preview for Odd Noggins, which I’ll also be reviewing, so keep YOUR eyes peeled! (I’m not gonna threaten you or nothin’, just read the review.) What’s great about films like this is that the production value is low, planting it firmly in B-or-C-movie territory, but it’s also not actually bad. The acting is what you would expect but somehow better than expected, and the camerawork is easily equivalent to a Troma Picture at worst. It’s decently funny, there’s enough nudity for the whole family, and it’s bizarre enough to keep you interested. What else would you expect from a film like this?
Lots and lots of unnecessary nudity, that's what I'd expect!
We’re all brought up with Hollywood movies, and if we’re old enough to be able to appreciate Troma and the B-movies of the 80’s, we’re used to relatively high budgets or creative small budgets. It’s either Hollywood or Tromaville, and there aren’t too many other towns that our movies introduce us to. So what happens to the people who don’t have connections to the big budget studios or have the ability to hook up with master producers like Lloyd Kaufman? Are they just stuck in obscurity forever, doomed to only be seen by those in the small towns in which they were shot? Fuck no, baby, it’s the information age! We can get copies of these movies through Twitter! It truly is the golden era for film availability, with more digital services than you can shake a stick at and more ways to connect to filmmakers and producers than ever before.
Movies like this have fascinated me since I was a kid first getting into horror. What leads someone to make a movie like this? You have to know, when you pick up your (often rented) camera that you’re not the next Spielberg or Kubrick. You know that, if you’re lucky, you might hit a festival that’s close to home and have a few dozen people see your film. What is the driving factor that allows these movies to keep getting made? Well, to be quite frank, it’s because making movies is really fucking fun. And, if you can make your miniscule budget back, you can make a little money, too! It allows people to show off their sense of humor, their writing chops, and vision to any who are willing to watch. It’s the precursor to reality tv, wherein you just want to show your art to other people. And sometimes, sometimes, you might get lucky and get your big break. After all, many great directors started making student films with no budget. Why not them?
Anyway, back to the film. Drifter is about a house that keeps having its occupants murdered. A drifter moves into the basement and the house starts to claim him as an instrument of death. A local realtor makes a bet with another that he can sell the Blud house, which he continually explains is because the original occupants’ last name was Blud not Blood, so he does his best to fix the house up in order to sell it within the next three months. Unfortunately for him, he hires the world’s worst handyman, who seems to have no interest in doing any of the work he’s been contracted to do. Unfortunately for the handyman, the drifter has already taken up residence and doesn’t want someone intruding on “his” property and dispatches him fairly quickly. The real estate agent also hired his mildly attractive niece to help paint the place, but she spills paint all over herself as a pretext to get her into the shower. The plumber, who is also on his way, happens to walk in on her in the shower, and the two exchange a cute banter (despite the fact that the plumber is at least twenty years older than her.) Also, what the fuck kinda real estate agent is this that can get three different workers to his house on the same day! That doesn’t happen in the real life, that’s how you know it’s a movie. Anyway, the drifter kills the plumber with a hammer to the back of the head, just in time for our newly naked girl to make her way out of the shower. The drifter is nice to her, just slamming her into the wall and knocking her out instead of killing her immediately.
I'm scary but I also won't kill you if you're a woman!
I won’t give any more of the film away, because everything I’ve told you is basically in the description of the movie, but this one really isn’t that bad. It’s a microbudget film, so you don’t come in with your expectations that high anyway. The acting is decent, the production is better than expected, and while there are definitely some areas that could be improved, it’s a watchable film, which is way more than you can say for a lot of these types of movies. Sherlock clearly has some skill behind the camera, and he puts it to good use. The quick cuts in some of the scenes are a little disorienting, but it’s clearly done for comedic effect, and it works in the film. It’s self-aware filmmaking, and you can’t ask for anything more from a film like this. While this is my first of Sherlock’s films, it won’t be my last, and I appreciate his sense of humor and the style of the film. Knowing that Sherlock made several sequels to Things, which was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life, I can honestly say with Sherlock behind the camera the film wouldn’t have been nearly as bad, all things being equal. I’m excited to see what he does with the “franchise.”
The best part about this film, and films like this, is that it keeps filmmaking approachable. If you go to the theater and watch one of the Marvel movies or the latest Christopher Nolan joint, it’s hard to even imagine being able to create anything like it. Not even from the budget perspective, but from a vision perspective. One could easily have an idea, but it’s hard to believe that, even with a four year film degree, one could even come close to making one of these types of movies. It’s easy to watch a film like Drifter and see little bits and pieces that you could do yourself. For someone like me, who has those pipe dreams of eventually making his own films, this is a nice change from the usual stuff that you see on the big screen. I mean nothing negative by that, more to point out that his setup is enviable and his talent is evident. It’s easy to believe that someone with the same eye and budget could make a comparable film, though it would take some foresight and experience to do some of the things Sherlock did in this film. I’m excited to see more of his work, this was a good starting point.
Who this movie is for: B-movie fans, People who appreciate indie SOV horror, Squatters
Bottom line: Better than expected and well worth a watch. The movie is decently funny at times, and better than it should be. Joe Sherlock is a competent filmmaker with a fun group of friends who are willing to play a part in his films. It looks like he had a helluva time making it to, and it's evident all throughout. Give it a watch if you get the chance!