Last month, I stumbled across a two part fan film by Colin and Connor McGuire. It was a decent effort from the two directors and they successfully captured that spark that made the game so appealing. However, there is more. There was a third part to their series, clocking in at 43 minutes and done with a much bigger budget. While I enjoyed the earlier episodes, I am hoping this will be a better idea of what they can achieve.
Initial verdict: a bigger budget definitely helps. The problem with fan films is that they have a tendency to bite off more than they can chew. The idea of a Left 4 Dead fan film was good, but if you cannot afford to properly convey your vision, there are better movies to make. While the other parts did they best they could, this part feels like a better portrayal of Colin and Connor’s storyboard. They can go a little further with their strong point, the action sequences, as well as being able to throw in some elements that require money in the bank. More extras, authentic weapons, a freaking helicopter…
Let’s start with what feels right. I have said it before, but it needs to be said again, the directors know how to film an action sequence. This fan film is at its best, when it is moving along at break-neck speed. Some of the best moments come from their keen eye for filming a bloody zombie massacre. My favourite moment was at the baseball stadium, when the four of them are lined up, firing bullets into a rushing horde of Infected. Other good moments include appearances from a Witch (albeit a short-lived scene), some well-timed headshots and the general carnage of the moment. The zombies are directed well, feeling as if they have run straight off of the game itself, screams never anything less than authentic. There was also a good, tense scene where a Hunter stalks Josh in a dark basement, that special Infected getting a much better time in the spotlight. It shows that horror and tension are something else that can go on Colin and Connor’s talents behind the camera.
What doesn’t work so well? Although the actors are much better this time around, I still think the slower scenes aren’t too impressive. The film opens with the four of them sharing a quiet moment in a lock-up, rambling and reminiscing on the good times. It wasn’t needed, or at the very least, should have been halved. The helicopter pilot is played for jokes and the jokes don’t always work. The mission to go and grab him so Coca Cola felt too odd to really work, although I do appreciate them trying to stick to the actual game. Other than that, it was a general lack of direction that soured the whole affair. I loved the set-pieces, but I felt there needed to be a strong narrative connecting them. The fan film seemed to work off of references to the actual game. That might have worked before, but with an extended running time, a stronger script had to come into play and sadly, I never felt that happened. It isn’t as though the crew aren’t capable of it. The final speech from Josh Pudleiner, with a montage of old faces playing over it, was well-directed, acted and written.
However, despite the sense of less could have been more, I am glad this fan film was made. The action sequences improve with every part and while Colin and Connor McGuire seem to be turning to ‘Portal’ for their next venture into fan film-making, I hope that they explore this territory again, as it has been fun spending time with these characters. Oh, and look out for a pretty cool cameo at the end of Part 3.