After falling in love with Croft, a fan film I reviewed a month ago, I have been on the look-out for similar fan films. It is exciting to see fresh talent making a film that they are clearly passionate about. As a budding writer and wannabe film-maker, I have found myself learning a lot from watching these types of films (camcorders to go for, the budget I am looking at if I want to make a movie). It is also fun to just watch a great piece of pop culture, replicated in the eyes of the fans. I am thinking of turning this hunt for great fan films into another once-a-month feature on my blog. So, let’s take a look at Colin and Connor McGuire’s two part adventure in the world of Left 4 Dead.
Part One is exactly what we expect from a fan film. The story is pretty much a group of people fighting off zombies. As it opens up and we are treated to a desolate landscape and abandoned cars, we can see that the directors have a keen eye for location. The opening scenery is ideal for a shoot-out and when the episode hits its finale, it is this good location scouting that keeps the scene fresh. The characters aren’t really developed, but with this kind of movie, they don’t need to be. Audiences aren’t looking for slower character-driven fan films; they want someone to try and replicate the intense action that we would find from Left 4 Dead. Nonetheless, it would help if the characters were able to act. The only actor here that shows promise is Josh Pudleiner.
We spend the entire ten minutes waiting for the actual zombies with bated breath. The direction is good and drip-feeds us the zombies. We are first treated to one zombie: clever, yet it creates a minor plot hole – the survivor calls for back-up, because of a single Infected. The fan films benefits from the original game’s idea of zombies. They are so fast that we never get a good glimpse at them, which helps with the budget. The make-up artists give them torn clothes, a dash of fake blood and just ask them to move fast. When the final fight crops up, the action is kept rapid and sudden. It is a thrilling piece of cinema, even if it suffers from a lack of ambition. You can never really get over the fact that the actors just want to look cool on camera for a few minutes (“Hey, didn’t I kill you already?” quips a survivor, as he cuts down a zombie.) Thankfully, most of these flaws are corrected with Part 2.
Part 2 benefits from more story and a longer running time. We open up with only two of the remaining survivors (thankfully Josh Pudleiner is one of them who still sets the bar when it comes to acting), who are trying to get to Fort Henry. However, as the film cuts to two down-on-their-luck soldiers, we learn that they safe haven is actually overrun. It creates this overlying sense of dread throughout the whole fan film, which helps keeps the audience invested in the story. The survivors eventually meet up with a group of survivors and try to hold off the hordes of Infected that are hungry for their next meal.
Part 2 is definitely better, if only because it seems to have more of a ‘point’ to it. The directors try to tackle the desperation of survivors, maybe getting inspired by the Walking Dead. Some of the quieter scenes suffer from a lacklustre script, but at least it breaks up the action set-pieces. In fairness, this fan film series finds its best strength in action. Colin and Connor McGuire are terrific directors, able to keep the action grounded, something most fan films fail at. Although it turns out that half of the characters are only written in to get killed off painfully, the best part of both parts is the fantastic finale where the survivors take on endless counts of Infected. Congratulations on getting enough extras to take part in the great zombie bloodbath at the end.
We even get a Hunter. Something the series needed to adopt was the special Infected, as it is the key element that separates Left 4 Dead from other zombie fan films out there. The Hunter is a good place to start, because it is fairly easy to depict on camera. Sadly, after a pretty brutal reveal, the episode moves on, which gives the Hunter an air of pointlessness. A true Hunter would put up much more of a fight than the one here and it turns into a little bit of a let-down. If the season wants to carry on, it needs to give these special Infected more screen-time. Most of the audience has turned up to see them, after all.
Next month, I shall look at the final part in this season. It actually has funding from Kickstarter with a budget of two grand. It has a much longer running time and promises more Special Infected and more developed characters. Hopefully, as good as these two parts are, they are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the talents of Colin and Connor McGuire.