LEGION OF THE LIAR / ABSENT (2006) Short Film Reviews

Here’s a pair of short films from Cinema Edge Productions. ABSENT is a short about a couple in search of an ultimate high and finding something a whole lot more terrifying. This is a pretty low budget flick which runs about 15 minutes long. It’s got a few good scares in it (mostly of the loud noise out of the blue variety) and a whole lot of blood and torture. The director (Daniel McLemore Stanton) has a subliminal scare technique that I found to be pretty fun, where a frightening random image pops out of the blue for just a second during some of the more quiet scenes. This made for an uneasy viewing experience where you didn’t know when the scares were going to come. The whip to the face torture scene is something inspired, but the rough editing and stilted dialog kept me from getting completely into this one. ABSENT was just the prologue to the real treat I picked up from Cinema Edge Productions; LEGION OF THE LIAR.

When I passed the Cinema Edge Productions table, the guy behind the desk asked, “Do you like exorcism stories?” to which I replied “Who doesn’t?” But exorcism stories are like movies about sharks, they have to be either damn good or damn original to work, otherwise it’s been done before and done better than anyone can ever dream of doing it, so why bother. I gave LEGION OF THE LIAR a chance and I’m glad I did. This 60 minute flick took me back to my youth; back when I was running around with my video camera trying to make the next great horror film. No matter where you grow up, everyone has a run-down, abandoned hospital in their home town. As a youth, I braved infection of all sorts to trudge through the peeled paint and gathered dust of the old hospital in the woods at the other end of town. It was the right setting, but alas, my youthful enthusiasm was greater than my attention span and what started out as a moody use of swerving cameras and amateur trick photography always spiraled into my buddies and me video taping each other as we chugged beer and lit farts.

Ahh, kindergarten…

Daniel McLemore Stanton has a much keener eye and longer attention span than I ever did and shows it well in LEGION OF THE LIAR. This is a surreal trip using one of those abandoned hospitals and a creepy cello soundtrack to set the mood following a reverend attempting to save a young girl who has been possessed. Stanton abandons a straight-forward narrative structure in favor of random images of a decaying hospital, a spooky Sid Haig-lookin’ guy in doctors scrubs covered in blood, a freaky dead girl bleeding from the mouth, a pair of emo Goths drinking blood from a broken chalice, and of course, maggots. It’s all tied together with a voiceover of said exorcism with all of the swears, screams, grunts, and roars that usually accompany those types of rituals. It’s not necessarily original, but the presentation is awfully moody and the constant screams ended up making me creeped-out through the whole thing. Stanton does a great job of scaring the shit out of you over and over in this one (I fell for it every time); where he focuses on a quiet scene, then quickly cuts to someone running towards the screen right at you, which caused me to sink back into my chair again and again. I really liked the constant barrage of unusual images (this would actually be a damn cool DVD to play at a bar while music is playing), all of which were both unnerving and provocative.

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