The concept of the snuff film is about as alluring to human curiosity as any one subject can get. Often times we see human carnage, but at a safe enough distance that the reality of violence can still seem like a faux-danger that we will never have to actually come to grips with. We can block out the serial killings that we see on television, because we don’t come face to face with the graphic display of human wreckage. The snuff film, or the concept of snuff as there has never actually been any discovery of such a ring in existence, is the polar opposite of this and it could show us the actual real life dangers that await us at any given opportunity. The snuff film is the allure of real life violence and the destruction of that safety line that blurs reality and fiction. Forward/Slash looks to explore our interest in the subject of legitimate snuff and our own fascination with death, while at the same time exploring technology and the effects that the internet has had on our fulfillment of that curiosity. Does it actually succeed in doing these things? A little bit of yes and a little bit of no. While the ideas and concepts at the heart of Forward/Slash are very interesting and the general look of the film is very polished, it does have a few issues weighing it down.
Forward/Slash tells the tale of four twenty-something friends who spend their evenings either at the local bar or hanging out at one of their homes. When one of the guys discovers a website where users film their own fake-snuff movies and others rate and vote for them, an idea brews between the group. They decide that they could do this and possibly do it better than anyone currently contributing to the website. With each friend bringing something unique to the table, the group is able to pull off a highly convincing faux-murder that immediately garners the group a huge number of followers. With these followers now paying five dollars per month to the group’s website, the guys are now raking in the money. Their murders, which are based on true life events, follow a nearby serial killer nicknamed The Van Gogh Killer who severs the ear from his victims after every grizzly assault. The group are soon approached by a local reporter who has discovered the website and actually has ties inside of the police department who feed him information. The reporter sees that these boys have done very well in recreating the murders and he sees this as an opportunity to help catch this violent psychopath. However, these young men are about to head down a dark and disturbing road that ends in real life violence like nothing they have seen before.
Written and directed by Kirk Loudon, the filmmaker shows promise in the fact that he capably handles his visuals very well. Although I won’t go so far as to say it is incredibly polished, it is a good looking feature. The lighting is handled very well, in night scenes as well as in brightly lit rooms with multiple characters, so the movie ends up coming across as very accomplished looking. I simply had issues and pet peeves that ultimately held me back from really getting into the picture. The performances by the cast, who are mostly first-time actors, can be a bit distracting. I am not usually one to complain about this sort of thing, as it is expected within the confines of independent film where really experienced actors are few and far between (or incredibly expensive), but the intricately plotted narrative simply demands more from the cast. When you are dealing with a thriller, what dialogue you are going to have will more than likely feature a great deal of exposition and fuel to keep the script/story movie. Forward/Slash does feature much of this and even great actors have trouble with scenes such as this. The best moments in the movie, dialogue and character-wise, comes in the moments where our four main cast members are kidding around with one another and cracking wise at each other’s expense. The wit of the writer tends to come out best during these moments and the cast seem at their most relaxed.
At this point it probably sounds as if I found the acting to be atrocious, but it really isn’t. There are cast members who I could see that were genuinely talented, such as Chris Kennedy who plays the somewhat geeky computer-guy from the main group and Adam Van Wagoner who plays the leader of this hapless four. Each actor shows a definite charisma, and I liked each in their role. I see a lot of promise with Forward Slash. My main issues that prevented me from loving it would be the slightly convoluted plot, the demand on the actors and the really poor use of CG blood. Pet peeves maybe, but these tend to be the major stumbles I found in the movie. Outside of that, there is a lot of promise here and in cinema you can only get better the more you do it. I would be very interested in seeing where Kirk Loudon and his group go from here! You can read more about the film at the official website http://www.murdermaster.com.