Redsin Tower (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers takes a journey to the creepiest tower in all of Pittsburg...
After recently dumping her possessive boyfriend, nothing seems to be going Kim's way. Heartbroken, her ex obsessively calls the cops on the party she was supposed to attend with her best friend Becky. The friends then team up with four others who are not yet ready to call it a night, and the group moves the festivities at the sight of the town's most notorious urban legend, the Redsin Tower. Kim’s wacky ex is not far behind.
I find myself in a situation I’m sure most real film critics find themselves in all the time—I’m reviewing a film made by someone I’ve actually met. Though I’m not buddies with director Fred Vogel, I’ve shaken his hand, and there’s a good possibility that I run into him again if I keep attending Chicago’s Flashback Weekend every year. On top of this, I’m casual friends with one of the film’s three executive producers, Xploitedcinema.com’s Tony Simonelli. So the question is, do I take it easy on the film because I’m afraid it’s director will break my spine and use it as a plot in his next film, or do I overcompensate at the risk of being called a sell-out by my three loyal readers? Two loyal readers? Well my dad has to count, right?
Anyway, my loyal reader (hi Dad!) will just have to take me at my word when I say I’m being as honest as I can with this review.
Redsin Tower marks a rather dramatic stylistic change from gritty, grimy indie studio Toe Tag Pictures, who have made a name for themselves with the brutal and disturbingly realistic August Underground series (or so I’ve heard, I’ve never found the balls to actually watch any of them). This turn is most obviously represented by the presence of a plot. We’re not talking intricately wound, surprise-a-minute kind of plot, but we’ve got character development, flashbacks, three acts, and a couple fun twists. Vogel and his crew handle the change-up gracefully; much more gracefully than half the slasher productions it gracefully apes.
The film’s independent (and I mean real independent, not multi-million dollar, fakie ‘independent’) status is pretty obvious if you want to look for it in the form of amateur acting (though above average for the type, especially Peter Schmidt) and low production values, until the beginning of the second act when our protagonists finally make it to the titular tower, and the set pieces, special effects, and acting take a quite a turn in quality. Whether it was meant this way or not, the sudden transformation in quality has a similar shock effect to films like Cannibal Holocaust, Audition and Last House on the Left, where an audience is lulled into a relative sense of security before being jabbed by the gut-punch. Vogel and companies’ so-so work effectively tricked me into assuming I was in for just another cheapy teenie killer.
Toe Tag has really made a name for itself through unflinchingly realistic gore effects on a teeny-tiny budget, and though Redsin Tower isn’t quite as abrasive as their previous releases, there is plenty of surprisingly realistic slaughter on screen. But this alone wouldn’t be growth, so Vogel includes a few effective lighting effects, and some really nice set design. When mixed with energetic camera work and overwhelming sound design the film’s supernaturally enhanced sequences, earning a few tentative comparisons to horror uber-indie Evil Dead (as does the overall plot). The final feature is a bit overlong, and the first act humour falls a little flat, but overall I was honestly impressed, and honestly recommend Redsin Tower to folks that know what their getting into with independently produced, hard core horror.
Even the classy lighting and set design can’t cover lower quality video, which is ultimately the thing that separates real independent features from their small and big studio counterparts. The overall image here is pretty soft and details often obscured beyond the purposefully dark design. The darkness is effective, but the image isn’t fully black, and what is black is inconstant. Grain is to be expected, and ads something to the aesthetic, though the crispness of smoke effects and background details are sometimes lost, which is really too bad.
Classy sound design and improvements in technology mean that cheap features can sound as good as expensive features. This disc is a good example of how much production value comes out of clever and large surround design. Some of the sound effects are a little over done and echo a tiny bit more than they probably should, but the horror stuff is golden, and ads a lot of scare to scenes that might seem silly otherwise. I made fun of another indie horror production, Live Feed, for its overwrought synth score, and might have expected the same from Redsin Tower, but I was pleased by the relative subtlety of the music, which often effectively blends into the bizarre soundscape.
The Toe Tag crew (Fred Vogel, Shelby Lyn Vogel, Jerami Cruise, and Cristie Whiles) offers up a spirited and happy commentary track that is a joy to listen too. The behind the scenes stories are often harrowing (the actor originally meant to be the hero came down with Crohn’s disease and had to be rushed to the hospital), the inspirations are amusing, and the informative, how-to bits are great. A lot of work went into this feature, and the commentary track is a consistent reminder.
The other extras include a Toe Tag introduction, a behind the scenes look at one of the film’s more bloody kills, with commentary, a behind the scenes photo slide show, and two trailers.
Let’s see here, I made comparisons to Last House and Evil Dead—that should probably keep me alive the next time I see director Fred Vogel. I was also sure to point out the film’s shortcomings, which should stop Dad from sending me sell-out hate mail. Redsin Tower starts a little slowly, and might not appeal to fans of glossy Hollywood horror, but really, dollar for dollar this is a pretty effective little feature. The DVD isn’t too shabby either, you should really buy a copy from my friends at Xploitedcinema.com, or visit the film’s official site here.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th October 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Director/Crew Commentary, 'Butchering Becky', Toe Tag Introduction, Slide Show, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Fred Vogel
Cast: Bethany Newell, Perry Tiberio, Jessica Kennedy, Meghan O'Halloran, Peter Schmidt
Length: 87 minutes
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