Director: Chad Ritchie
Writer: Chad Ritchie, Justin Carlino
Cast: Brooke Svanes, Matt Hartley, Mia Topalian, Tiffany Anderjaska
I have reviewed Chad Ritchie’s 2010 film Fields of November on this very site a while back and my first ever interview on The Cinephiliacs was with the New York film-maker too, so I am rather familiar with the man himself and much of his work, so I was eager to check out the film he made in 2012 called Project October.
Before ever seeing it, I had heard that the film would be nothing like Fields of November which is an incredibly moving and wonderfully constructed film that I really connected with and loved, and before getting to the main portion of this review I can confirm that yes, Project October really is its own unique beast, unlike anything I’ve personally seen before.
Produced independently, Ritchie co-writes here along with Justin Carlino. The eye for detail and for keeping the camera on the expressions of his cast is something I had noted about Ritchie’s other film, and it is to be found here too. We witness the emotions, reactions and suffering of the characters and it feels much more real than in other films that deal with related concepts or are of similar genres. A lot can be said for the allowance for actors to collaborate with their director and have something of a freedom in which to ad-lib and express what their character is feeling. Project October really emphasises this to me, and it was one of the lasting impressions I had from the film after my first viewing and my few viewings of the film since. The performers bring about an authenticity to the screen and in doing so add to the feeling that we’re watching something genuine and unsettling unfold.
The plot here is a mysterious one and surrounds a found video tape. The tape in question is what we, the unsuspecting viewer (or voyeur) watch and on which we witness the curious story unfold. Rachel buys a video camera and we soon find out from watching her that she is a woman who is suffering from great internal psychological issues. We witness her as she is battling with herself and her inner compulsions, and we watch her personal conversations with her friend Lily. Obviously distressed and unable to put things into order and perspective, Rachel decides to get rid of the camera and so she tosses it. The next thing we see is the camera being found and taken by someone outside her apartment and the tone of the whole film changes as we find ourselves observing disturbing and violent sequences as the dark tale unfolds. To say much more about the plot and the turns it takes would be an injustice to a potential viewer yet to see it. The sixty minutes of film are best seen when you are unaware with what is going on and where the road is going to take you, and so I want to be as vague as possible with my synopsis here.
The cast do an excellent job and obviously care about bringing their characters to the screen in the most authentic way possible. Brooke Svanes as Rachel really nails the tortured and conflicted traits that make her character what it is, and I thought she was fantastic here. Likewise, Matt Hartley at Lucas creeps into shot and manages to appear both charming and corrupt, bringing an uneasy darkness to the film that pushes it to the outer edge of the horror genre, while also planting it firmly in psychotic sexual thriller and human drama. It slides in and around numerous avenues and areas of cinema and does so in ways you don’t really notice at first. You just experience something that is cerebral and engaging, offering long shots of dialogue and character development amidst a “what will happen next” atmosphere and scenes of shocking violence.
Project October was shot in sequence which I find truly fascinating. It’s got so many experimental elements going on that make it really interesting and provide a glimpse at another side of independent filmmaking. I really do like this film a great deal. It is a 60 minute insight into the demented underbelly of human nature, and the constant feel of impending catastrophe brings a tension that can be very hard to accomplish. I remember that feeling when I first watched the film where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and the unpredictability lent itself to the underground feel of the film, something I got a bit kick out of. It is a movie as unique as it is intriguing and brings something provocative and fresh to the table. I recommend heading to Amazon and making it a priority to see this, I am pretty confident that you will encounter a film unlike anything you’ve before seen.
Project October is available to watch on VOD on Amazon US, right now.