The independent film scene can either be made up of films that use their budgetary limitations in order to do something highly innovative, or it can be a cesspool of repetitive genre manglings. This is an unfortunate fact that I have discovered throughout years of writing about indie cinema. So, when I saw the production company "Grindhouse Films" at the beginning of The Legend of Daniel, I expected that I was in for something much less original than this particular feature turned out to be. It isn’t often that one finds a short film made using only sock puppets and a voice over narration. Sitting down to watch The Legend of Daniel turns out to be the sort of weird joyous activity that seldom comes along, in the independent film world or otherwise. Truly, The Legend of Daniel is a title that is so peculiar that one has to hold hope that it will someday find the larger audience that it deserves, because one could easily see it becoming a cult short.
The story told in The Legend of Daniel is far less "legendary" than one might expect. There are no dragons or great moments of peril, but instead it is about one man (or, sock puppet) and his quest for internal happiness. Daniel is a young man currently festering within a devoted relationship with a young woman. His home life is pretty boring, but his work as a clerk down at the local pharmacy seems even worse. While not an enriching or fulfilling life, it is steady. However, when Daniel gets to thinking about his life and what he expected of it, he thinks back to his childhood dream of being a cowboy. Realizing that this is just a childish dream, Daniel tries to block it out of his head and continue on with his life. However, when an incident at work gets him suspended and his girlfriend finds a few Google results left open on his computer that he wouldn’t have wanted her to see, Daniel is left lonely and without any of his former stability. While traveling in this state of limbo, Daniel ponders his faith, beliefs, and ultimately his dream.
The Legend of Daniel clocks in at a little under thirty minutes, which is kind to the audience because the voice over narration is the one thing that may turn some viewers off when watching this project. I have seen this effect put to good use in other films, but having a narrator describe every piece of action or dialogue within a film can be very difficult for many viewers. However, thankfully the writing within the film is extra sharp and many of the fun zingers in the narration are played incredibly straight. Indeed, the humor is of an entirely abstract and random nature, but it is delivered in such a convincingly deadpan way that it becomes something very weird and very fun. The strange cult of Jesus-cat that floats around in the short is definitely a big part of this. Director/writer Tyler Moore takes some very absurd and off-the-wall ideas and throws them into a short story that is surprisingly poetic in the way that it deals with individual goals, dreams, and self assessment. The very serious "message" behind The Legend of Daniel is only complimented by the very strange ideas on display within the movie, and it all adds up to one smorgasbord of entertainment. If you’d like to read more about Tyler Moore and his film work, you can visit his official page at: http://www.tylermoorefilms.com