The post-Grindhouse reverence for classic exploitation film has certainly ran its course within the independent film industry. Although there was already a tidal wave of nostalgic love coming down the pipe for classic exploitation films, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez helped really push that fervent nostalgia to the forefront for an entire generation. After the release of that film, there has been an unstoppable onslaught of independent films that feature a similar "degraded film stock" look, and feature wild over the top performances from their amateurish cast. While many of my fellow film critics have grown so tired of this concept, I still try to keep an open mind with these films. As a dedicated film geek myself, I realize how lovable these classic exploitation titles are, and their aesthetic qualities are part of their charm. So, I can imagine a filmmaker’s draw to those visual qualities and how tempting it must be to try and emulate that. Cyclone is a short film that certainly employs a particular style that seems reminiscent of these faux-grindhouse titles, but has enough of its own voice that you’re left intrigued by the project. A mix of new and old visual aesthetics, this short promises a wild and violent ride if the project is ever turned into a feature.
Kris Musgrove (played by Nikkie Estridge) is a woman who has recently been freed from prison, for crimes that she did not commit. When she is released, she immediately begins looking for revenge on every person who played a part in sending her to jail. Kris needs to put an end to those who have harmed her, and track down her little sister who has been kidnapped by a white slave syndicate. When she tracks down Buck Turner (potentially a reference to the classic Blaxploitation film Truck Turner?), an insidious man who isn’t afraid to hurt a woman, she has her first taste of sweet revenge. After dispatching of Buck Turner for his previous crimes against her, Kris runs into Layla (Kat Smo) who was hidden away inside of Buck Turner’s house. This young woman is perfectly in tune with Kris’ rebellious behavior however, and seems happy to see Buck bite the dust. These two women are going to raise hell all over the south, one city at a time!
We’re only talking about a twelve minute short, so that plot synopsis covers a lot of the story in the film unfortunately. What actually draws the viewer in isn’t the exciting plot line however, it’s the combination of exploitation elements and the visual pastiche of the film. Director Mike Ashcraft does a great job in crafting a beautiful looking piece of work that seems polished and stylish enough to support a feature presentation. It seems he could do it in a far more interesting way than the very recent, and similar "Girls-Being-Bad" tribute to Grindhouse cinema, Bitch Slap. The short is beautifully stylized, featuring a highly saturated look that gives the project a very bright and contrasting appeal that seems to fit in line with the gritty attitude of its character, and makes the southern sun seem even hotter. This is of course perfectly befitting any film where you want to show off the supple skin of your gorgeous female cast! Nothing sells sex appeal quite like a hot looking woman, doused in water and looking sweaty. The short simply screams "humidity" at the audience, which perfectly encapsulates the deep south (as a Louisiana native, I speak from experience). Ashcraft is apparently a photographer by trade from what the official website tells me, and it seems fitting because his short looks absolutely beautiful.
Although it is a short that leaves many questions unanswered, this seems to be a taste of things to come. Hopefully Ashcraft can get his funding together in order to make an official feature length version of his film because it looks to promise mayhem and entertainment for the audience. If you have a couple of minutes to kill, show some support for the filmmaker and take a look at the project. You can watch the short online and free at the