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The Independent Critic

Joseph Baire, Chandler Balli, Addison Chapman, Kelly Kidd
Chandler Balli
Chandler Balli, Travis Lee Prine
160 Mins.

 Movie Review: Death After Dusk 
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I could sit here and tell you everything that's "wrong" with co-writer/director Chandler Balli's Death After Dusk, though I'm not particularly fond of the word "wrong" when it comes to filmmaking unless it's tied to a name like Cameron or Nolan. 

Still, I could. Truthfully, Death After Dusk is practically the definition of a lo-budget indie flick with technical issues that will prove distracting for those who've never experienced the world of micro-budgeted cinema. If the multi-plex is your only reference point for film, Death After Dusk may prove to be a challenging experience. 

Then again, it may not. 

There's something about Death After Dusk that may grab your attention. Passion is the closest word I can find to describe it. Death After Dusk is a film made by film lovers for the love of film. It's an ambitious film, perhaps too ambitious, and it may be that ambition that keeps this $10,000 film looking and sounding like the low-budget film that it actually is. I've seen better films made for less. I've seen far worse films made for much more. 

Death After Dusk is a western-themed mystery/horror. Shot directly in a small, dilapidated Texas town soon to be demolished to make way for bigger and better, Death After Dusk is a film that leaves you both wishing it could have been better and more than a little in awe of how good it actually is. 

Death After Dusk is set in 1899 in the small town of Buck Creek. There's a killer on the loose, an aptly monikered Buck Creek Killer, and the local residents are living in fear of what's next and who's next. The sheriff assembles a team of nine bounty hunters - a $25,000 reward is at stake. 

What could go wrong?

Death After Dusk, it should be noted, is light on actual horror and goes directions you may not be expecting. The film has an overall design that will make you think about films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though nothing quite that horrifying unfolds here. Instead, again, we're looking at a film made by film lovers because they love film and that love for all the little nuances of film shines through. Death After Dusk actually made me more think of The Town That Dreaded Sundown, the original of course, with its muted tones and crackling crime thrills. 

The film largely finds its narrative focus around the dynamics between Skinny (Balli) and Short (Addison Chapman). They're Butch and Sundance-light, a charismatic duo with a bit of an edgy badassery that's fun to watch. I was perhaps even more taken by Kelly Kidd's Mad Dog, whose compelling tour-de-force performance commands your attention every time he shows up. Joseph Baire's a blast as Thomas, Lyndsay Thomas is awesome as Mrs. Mad Dog, and Alana Philips impresses as Blink. It's always difficult to single out performances in what is clearly an ensemble motion picture and it's particularly true here that given the myriad of constraints that Balli had this is a mighty fine ensemble. 

Lensing by Keith Kinsey is imaginative and accomplishes quite a bit with very little. While historical accuracy inevitably gets compromised on a $10,000 budget, costume design by Beyza Nur Apaydin is still quite impressive as is Balli's own original music. 

Death After Dusk is a "Fu** it. I'm going for it film!" At nearly 2-1/2 hours, it's arguable that it's overly long but that goes back to it being an ambitious effort by a cast and crew determined to accomplish everything they can accomplish here. Perfect filmmaking? Nope. Independent filmmaking? Absolutely. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic