Religious cults and secret societies have been around for thousands of years, and many still exist even today in this modern age. That’s the basis of the film Taffy was Born by director David Giardina.
The story is about a man named Verid Steele (Scott Mitchell Kelly) who returns home after thirty years of living a life with no past looking to re-discover his roots and his own family history. He had been sent away by his aunt after his parents died when he was only seven years old. In the time since then, he had lived a hard life, but eventually made something of himself in the financial world. Unfortunately, someone at his firm embezzled some money and he ended up taking the wrap for it and spent some time in jail. But now he’s returned home and wants to re-discover his past, only to find that he is blocked at every turn by a town that almost entirely is controlled by a secret religious order who practice what is known as Raefism, which is led by the local minister and followed by nearly everyone in town, including his aunt Minerva who he’s come home to live with. The sect practices ritualistic human sacrifice and is hard set in their belief that there is only one way to righteousness, and any variation from that is treated with anything from ostrisization to flat out murder. A Verid struggles to find the secrets of his past, he is met at every turn with new roadblocks as the members of the sect form a circle of silence around him. Will he finally discover the truth about his past and what happened to his parents? And who was Taffy? By the end of the film, all the secrets are revealed, but I don’t want to get into the story too much here because there are some surprises and I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
Taffy was Born is David Giardina’s first feature film, but you’d never know it by looking at it. Many first time filmmakers make a considerable number of mistakes in their first full length film, but in this particular film, I can only fault him for one thing. It felt a little overedited with the cutting back and forth between people talking. Still, it wasn’t that big of a deal and never reached the point of being annoying or overly noticeable by the average viewer. Aside from that however, this was a well written, well acted film with good pacing and a musical score as well as other audio effects that served to create an eerily creepy mood throughout it’s entirety. Everything about the camera work, from the angles to the moving shots to the lighting, all were done expertly and avoided the staticness of so many other films where the camera seems to be glued to the ground or is shaking all over the place because someone’s carrying it.
The acting on everyone’s part was all quite good. As I watched the film, I kept thinking that Verid’s reactions to things seemed considerably more mild than they should have and that he kept making mistakes in telling people things that he shouldn’t. Then I got to thinking about it and realized that if he were a real person in a real situation like this, he wouldn’t have any real reason from his perspective at the time to act any differently. So rather than loading the character up with overly dramatic reactions, he played it as a normal person would, which I found to be rather refreshing.
Another notable character was Cecilia, played by Lisa Sharpe. She was friends with him when he was seven years old, and was witness to what happened in the woods the night everything went down. She lost it and the priest hit her in the head to put a stop to her freaking out. Unfortunately for her, it left her with mental problems to the point where she’s grown up and now lives alone on public assistance and no one basically has anything to do with her. She doesn’t talk much, but when she does talk, she says strange things that don’t make much sense until later in the film when you finally come to understand what she meant.
This movie is creepy to say the least. I was dreading even watching it because I wasn’t much in the mood to watch a movie when I saw it, and what made it even worse was when I noticed in the press kit that it was 114 minutes long. "Oh man…" I thought to myself. "This is going to be hell to get through." Honestly though, it really wasn’t a chore at all. In fact, almost none of those 114 minutes was wasted, and it didn’t even really feel like it was that long when it was done and overwith. What made it work was that there weren’t any overly long scenes of nothing going on, which so many filmmakers seem to like to use as a time filler. The whole film was devoted to telling the story, and it all moved along quite nicely. As a psychological thriller, this film worked quite well, and if you’re a fan of that particular genre, then you’re definitely going to want to see this movie.
If you’d like to find out more about the film, which is currently making it’s way around the film festival circuit, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.taffywasborn.com.