Perhaps beginning with The Blair Witch Project, many filmmakers have utilized the Internet for a grassroots marketing campaign to varying degrees of success. The Blair Witch Internet marketing campaign, by all accounts, was wildly successful primarily for two reasons. First, the use of the Internet as a major marketing tool for films was new territory and had really not been used other than posting stills and trailers for the film. So when the Blair Witch website was created, it generated a great deal of excitement by horror fans due to the sheer amount of material available even before the film was released. Secondly, because this type of marketing campaign was fairly new, the Internet audience was a bit naïve about such advertising tactics. Rumors of actual found footage and strange happenings in the woods coupled with realistic-looking newsprint articles about missing persons generated a huge argument about how “real” the film actually was. This campaign created real excitement and controversy and not just for fans of horror movies. Others became involved as well and the national media outlets played right into the marketers’ hands, keeping the buzz going through theatrical release right into video and DVD release.
These kinds of campaigns are now more frequent and the audience is becoming a bit jaded, so there isn’t the same kind of controversy surrounding films as there was with Blair Witch (although I did find the” real vs. fiction” argument alive and well on the Paranormal Activity boards pretty entertaining). That being said, I still think this kind of campaign is fun to see and most likely relatively cheap to run compared to the more traditional movie marketing campaigns. For low budget filmmakers, it is not only a cheap marketing alternative but also a way to generate interest from potential investors in a film.
Enter Wireface. Wireface is the latest in a long line of slashers, so named because the mask he wears is made of wire. The film is a proposed feature, but for now exists as a series of 14 webisodes that each run between three and four minutes in length. These webisodes alternate between supposed news report footage and interviews with “family members” of seven teenaged girls that have been abducted and murdered. By some miracle, the last girl that was abducted and attacked managed to survive and in one of the final news reports is seen being carried away in a state of hysteria. As the news camera records this scene, the girl is heard repeatedly screaming, “Wireface, wireface!” As the webisodes end, it seems that the police have no suspects and no leads. In fact, the only shred of evidence they have been able to glean is a potential nickname for the serial killer: Wireface.
The filmmakers who brought you these webisodes (which can be found at www.thewireface.com) have now added to the mystique of their serial killer by producing a short film entitled Wireface: In the Beginning…which explores the making of this latest serial killer. I found the webisodes to be fairly well-done and certainly an entertaining way to generate some buzz about the upcoming film. By the time you’ve watched the webisodes, you are more than a little curious about this so-called “Wireface”. Who is this killer? What is his motive? Why is he preying on innocent young women? What made him into a mass murderer in the first place? This new 28-minute short goes a long way in trying to answer some of these questions, and more.
Xavier Paris grew up on a lonely farm with a religious, loving mother and a horribly abusive father who preached to him that there was no God. He grew up getting routine whippings until his teenaged years when his father passed away. Despite the terrible abuse heaped upon him by his father, Xavier grew up to be a fine young man. He enlisted in the military and fought for several years during Desert Storm. He came home and married his high school sweetheart. But despite Xavier’s perseverance, things just keep going wrong for him. He arrives home from Iraq just in time to witness the sheriff—an old family friend—serve his mother eviction papers on the family farm. His wife dies in childbirth, leaving him sole caretaker of his new daughter. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when his daughter is kidnapped and murdered. Xavier can’t take it anymore. He turns his back on his family, his home and his religion. But in a remarkable twist of fate, as he is having a nervous breakdown in the privacy of the old barn, he makes a discovery that will literally change his life—and presumably the lives of many others—forever.
While I don’t want to divulge too much for fear of ruining the surprise, I will say that the discovery Xavier makes explains why his father was so adamant that he stay out of the barn, beating little Xavier mercilessly whenever the small child even approaches the dilapidated building. Xavier’s father is a violent man, and while he doesn’t kill Xavier himself, in one scene as the father enters the house after delivering a particularly severe beating to the young man, Xavier’s mother makes a comment that implies Xavier had an older sibling that perhaps died at the hands of Xavier’s father. The father’s reply is chillingly cold: “I didn’t want kids anyway.” It’s a simple but haunting statement.
The film itself is excellent. Told partly in the present time and partly in flashback, we feel for Xavier and his helpless mother as she is forced to stand by and watch the abuse of her son. We also feel a great deal of sympathy for Xavier as we watch his life, which seems to be cursed. When anything good happens, it is balanced by a tragedy. We marvel at this family’s strength and perseverance. The acting is very good, from the young talent that plays the teens through to the more experienced actors and actresses. Cindy Maples as Xavier’s mother, JoAnne Paris is typically good. She is quite experienced with low-budget horror films, being a staple over at Big Biting Pig Productions, where she has starred in their last three features as well as a film short for a different director in the western Kentucky area. Maples’ performance as JoAnne Paris is an authentic portrayal of a simple country girl relying on her faith to get her through hard times. She’s happy with the farming life and doesn’t need a bunch of material items; these will just get in her way. She’s happiest when her family is happy. Unfortunately, that isn’t very often. Rusty James, also a veteran of Big Biting Pig’s last few productions, owns his relatively small role as the county sheriff. His performance as the informal, down-home sheriff is very good. Hopefully he will have a larger role to play in the future full-length version of the film. But the real star of Wireface: In the Beginning…is Joshua Loren as the adult Xavier Paris. His quiet, reflective performance as a man pushed to the brink is very strong, and when he finally explodes, the performance is gut-churning in its intensity. The final shots of a doggedly determined Xavier driving down a country lane is fraught with tension as the audience knows that here is a man who has finally been broken down, someone who may be capable of anything.
While I haven’t seen any of director Kris Rommel’s work before, he proves here he is a very capable director. The story is strong as well as the acting, and the cinematography is also a strong point. We have many interesting shots but nothing showy. Transitions between scenes are also excellent, with my favorite being the transition between Xavier as a small child and as a young man. Rommel chooses to show small Xavier’s fingers holding onto a fence railing as he is whipped by his father. To depict the passage of time and the length of abuse, these small hands slowly give way to larger hands, and eventually the camera moves up to show Xavier as a teenager.
I was also very happy with the sound mix in the film. One of my pet peeves with low-budget films is sound. Many films don’t have quality sound mixing and many times the viewer has to constantly deal with the volume control. It becomes quite irritating to have to constantly change the level of the volume. Not so with Wireface. The movie has great sound as well.
Overall, Wireface is an excellent film short. Director Rommel has crafted a fascinating and emotional tale of one man’s journey into hell. Though short, the film is quite powerful. If this is any indication of things to come, personally I can’t wait for the full-length feature. While the prequel has not been released publicly yet, you can still see the webisodes and get information about the upcoming feature at www.thewireface.com, and stay tuned for more from America’s newest slasher!