One genre of American cinema that has fallen to the wayside the last few decades has been the Western. For a long time the Western was the genre of choice for action fans looking for a tough hero in the Wild West, ready to shoot first and ask questions last. Here and there a new Western is made but never seems to reach a broad audience.
Hopefully THE SCARLET WORM, the new production from Wild Dogs Productions and directed by Michael Fredianelli, will start the ball rolling on bringing the genre back into the minds of viewers looking to step away from the seemingly ho hum films in the multiplexes and revisit the days of yore.
THE SCARLET WORM centers on Print (Aaron Stielstra), a gun for hire who enjoys being a little creative and poetic with the his victims, is asked by his boss Paul (Montgomery Ford) to kill Heinrich Kley (Dan van Husen), a brothel owner who performs horrible and unsanitary abortions on his girls so they can keep working. Paul asks Print to train a new kid who falls for one of the girls, putting his and Print's life at stake before they can get the job done.
First and foremost, from the opening scene anyone who knows anything about the Western genre from Hollywood or the Italian Spaghetti Westerns, will immediately see how much this group of filmmakers love, have studied, and understand the genre. These aren't a group of people getting together just to make a Western to be different and be noticed; this is a group who is doing this out of sheer passion, which makes the viewing experience that much more enjoyable knowing everything is authentic in it's own right.
The acting was what you would expect in an independent film. There were actors in it who stood out as great, and then there were others that you wonder if they were friends of the directors or if they were really actors. Aaron Stielstra did a great job as Print. He has a great look for the genre, and talent to boot. And of course having some names from the old Westerns like Dan Van Husen and Montgomery Ford were great additions as well, seeing the older generation passing on the torch to the new.
THE SCARLET WORM is a low budget film, but looking at the costumes, sets, and props you wouldn't be able to tell at all. I don't know where they found the location, but it looked like an old Western building for the brothel. Add the ambience of the desert and the setting was complete. I never sat there disbelieving anything they put in front of me.
And the action! There were a couple of shootouts in the film that were shot so incredibly well and filled with so much raw energy and excitement. In the end, I wished that there were more of these spread out through the film instead of some of the dialogue sequences that didn't really do much for the plot, which that would be my biggest complaint about the film. There were a few scenes that dragged on a little bit to long near the end, which drew me out for a moment here and there.
Also, bravo for the team to use practical squibs instead of going the digital route like everybody else seems to be doing these days. Digital blood, in my opinion, makes a film look really bad, even when major studios use it. So it's refreshing to see people go back to filling condoms with blood, strapping them on and having blood explode out of their bodies. It's those little touches that raise production value leaps and bounds. The only digital FX I could tell that were used were the shotgun blasts, which is completely understandable. If they used digital muzzle flashes for the revolvers, they did an excellent job covering them up because those looked real as well.
THE SCARLET WORM is a film I would definitely recommend to fans of the Western genre. I respect and appreciate everything I saw in the film, and really hope to see these guys make another Western and turn it up a notch. THE SCARLET WORM is currently available from Unearthed Films. – Bennie Woodell
THE SCARLET WORM is available for purchase from Amazon.
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