Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. Jeremy Alter is one of those guys. If you’ve been in Los Angeles for a while, you’ve met people like him. Guys who have worked in various capacities on dozens of films, all the while keeping their eye on the prize of making their own film at some point. At this point, I’m not even sure when it was that I initially met him, but we’ve known each other for at least five or six years now on a casual, friendly basis. He was the location manager who called me up one day and asked if I minded if he brought a small film crew to use my apartment, eventually showing up with David Lynch and Laura Dern in tow. That was for a shoot that eventually led to INLAND EMPIRE, a film that Jeremy’s a producer on, just one of many films he’s worked on in the time I’ve known him. But when we would talk, it wouldn’t be about those films. I actually know him first and foremost because of the work he’s done with his creative partner, Anton Pardoe. I was a huge fan of Michael Valle’s SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VENGEANCE OF DRACULA back when he was alive and developing the film, and after I’d written about that, I was sent a script that used the same jumping-off point to do something totally different. That script was HVD, or HOLMES VS DRACULA, written by Pardoe, intended at the time as a possible directorial effort by Alter. I liked the vibe of their script a lot, and as we kept talking over time, the other things they were working on all had a similar strong sense of style and fun. I figured it was just a matter of time until they put together one of those projects and saw it through to fruition. And now, finally, that’s happened. As I understand it, they’re in Berlin this week with a wet print of their film, finally showing it to people for the first time. Here’s a trailer they’ve put together:
Or you can check out a Flash streaming version or the QuickTime version if you’d like instead. I’ve seen a few cuts of this film now, and I’ve watched it come into focus. I've done this for other people I know... watch a rough cut of something not for review, but just to offer an opinion. The first time I saw it, Jeremy left me in an editing room alone with Gary Oldman, of all people, and the two of us sat with him afterwards and talked about how we each reacted to it. The finished version feels like a film that has been finely tuned, carefully tightened. All that's left now is for them to add the score that David Vanian of The Damned is writing right now. I'm reeeeeally curious to see what he comes up with. I was a huge fan of The Damned growing up, and when I met Vanian the other night and talked to him for a moment, it sounded like scoring is where his head is now. A film like this will all come down to mood, so Vanian can make a huge difference here. I know there’s a definition at the start of that trailer for “film noir,” but this is more a sub-genre... masochism noir. Pardoe actually plays the lead, a guy who has a knack for two things: causing pain to other people, and surviving whatever pain gets heaped on him. Those are pretty much the two skill sets he needs to make it through this particular film, too, a sleek and sad little story of a fucked-up crime family and the way the sins of one generation absolutely ravage a younger generation emotionally. Pardoe plays opposite some familiar faces like Patrick Bachau (CARNIVALE, PANIC ROOM), Roselyn Sanchez (RUSH HOUR 2), Pavel Lychnikoff (DEADWOOD, MIAMI VICE), Tony Amendola (STARGATE SG-1, THE LEGEND OF ZORRO), and even ‘80s icon Michael Pare. It’s sort of risky to use your unknown screenwriter as your lead on a small film like this, but Pardoe proves to be a pretty interesting choice. Long and rubbery, he’s a perfect punching bag, and he handles himself well in the fight scenes. There’s one in particular that you glimpse in the trailer opposite a guy named Dominiquie Vandenberg, a powerfully-built guy about half as tall as Pardoe, a professional martial artist who would no doubt destroy Pardoe in real life. So of course, in the film... he destroys Pardoe. I like that he doesn’t turn himself into the obvious superhero, but instead plays it the way I always love in films like this... the guy who is thisclose to dead, but still has to keep going anyway. I enjoy it when you get to the end of a film and the hero looks like he’s been hit by a whole fleet of buses, and Pardoe certainly marches into the end of this one just barely keeping his pieces together. Alter makes exceptional use of his time as a locations manager, taking full advantage of some of the most visually striking spots in LA, always finding really great spots to stage his action sequences as well as the intimate character beats. Alter’s version of LA plays a big part in the overall effect of the film, making it feel like a sort of overheated fever dream from someone who feel asleep with a Chandler book cracked open on their chest. It’s a solid feature directorial debut, and more than anything, that’s what this plays as... a debut. You can feel Pardoe and Alter really revving up here, jazzed to finally be making a film, giddy from all the cool things they get to do. For such a heartbroken little movie, there’s still a sense of black humor to it. This is one of those films that will definitely connect to a certain cult audience, and with a little TLC, it might even play wider than that. It’s just nice to see guys who have been working towards something like this not only make a film, but make something they obviously enjoy as a final product. I’m curious to see what happens with THE PERFECT SLEEP in Berlin, and to see what these two end up doing next.
Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles