Faces (2014)

Faces posterI’ve seen all kinds of indie horror films. Some were able to land one or two familiar genre actors while others had a cast of complete unknowns. Some over-reached with their ambition while others under-performed. Some had surprisingly high budgets while others had what are referred to as “micro-budgets.” I’ve never judged a film based solely on its budget. I’ve seen big-budgeted films that pissed away its money while other micro-budgeted films delivered such well-executed special f/x I was left speechless. FACES is what you would call an indie film on a micro-budget. The film is estimated to have been made for around $1,000 (nope, I didn’t leave out a zero). But that’s only one element of this film. FACES is also full of new and unfamiliar actors but has a writer-director-lead actor who has some experience under his belt. Tom Ryan is also the mind behind the zombie short DAY 9, another micro-budgeted short that really delivered. Ryan took a simple story and made it feel original and fresh, and it has a real gut-punch of an ending. Let’s see what Ryan does with FACES.

Tom Ryan stars as Frank, an ex-con who just wants a fair shot now that he’s out of prison. Adding to the suspense are hints that Frank may have been incarcerated in a mental hospital and not a regular prison. The film opens with Frank going on a job interview and we soon realize this isn’t his first interview. No one seems willing to give Frank a shot. They look at his past record as though it were a huge scarlet letter. His most recent interview is to work on the loading docks of an import/export company and he interviews with the president/owner of the company himself, Henry (Edward X. Young). Henry proves to be a huge asshole and taunts Frank about his criminal record and even accuses Frank of being on drugs. It was a horrible experience for Frank and he leaves the interview a more crushed man than when he went. So what’s a man to do? Go drown your sorrows in a bar, of course.

Don't feel bad that Frank isn't feeling himself lately, feel bad that he IS feeling like himself lately!!

Don’t feel bad that Frank isn’t feeling himself lately, feel bad that he IS feeling like himself lately!!

Ryan does a great job portraying a man at the end of his rope. Frank is broke, owes three months of back rent, has no friends, no girlfriend, and is socially maladjusted. Even at the bar Frank sits alone in the corner not talking to anyone. The only person he talks to is a bar waitress, Connie (Caroline Pozycki), and time and again all he manages to do is scare the shit out of her by saying really creepy, inappropriate things (sounds like my life as a single man). After closing down the bar, Frank heads home and thinks about the disastrous interview with Henry. He remembers Henry thinking he was on drugs and decides to flush his bottle of pills down the toilet.

Not a good move.

This is when everything spirals out of control for Frank. One of the guys from the bar, Charlie (Paul Gmitter) follows Frank home one night and what starts off as one guy trying to help out another by offering some friendly advice ends in violence and murder. But what happens next is something you need to see for yourself. The title of the short, FACES, alludes to being haunted by the faces of those who have either been wronged by you or of those who have wronged you. In this case it it something more literal (don’t worry, no spoilers here!!).

Faces charlieI really enjoyed FACES and thought Ryan gave us a solid story with good characters in realistic situations. As the film opens you want to like Frank and you want to see him succeed. Sure he has a past criminal record but he did his time and paid his dues. Ryan’s portrayal of Frank is spot on. Ryan at first makes the viewer feel sympathetic for Frank but as the short progresses you realize Frank is a dangerous man. The title FACES could also easily refer to the many different faces people wear everyday. During the day you might be ‘the father,’ than at work you wear the face of ‘the boss,’ then after work you are ‘the friend’ out getting drinks, and then you go home and wear the face of ‘the husband.’ Frank’s pills helped him cope with and juggle all those different faces, but now without the pills Frank is wearing what appears to be his one true face.

FACES is definitely on the low end of the budget spectrum. If you don’t like low budget films then you may want to stay away. That’d be a shame, though, because we get some great performances and a really solid, well-executed story. At 80 minutes, Ryan also keeps FACES nice and tight with no padding and the film never feels as though it drags. There’s also a distinct Edgar Allan Poe vibe going on in this film that I’m sure you’ll catch.

Faces henryJust as in DAY 9, Ryan gives us a pretty explosive ending that wraps up and explains everything nicely without pandering to the viewer. FACES is what you get when you have an ambitious, talented filmmaker with a lot of friends, not a lot of money, and some lofty ideas. Don’t miss FACES!!

My Summary:

Director: Tom Ryan (& writer, lead actor, producer, & wrote the original music)

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars

Gore: 5.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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