The Book of Lambs: The 48-Hour Film Project (Short FIlm)

11 Aug

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Smith’s Verdict: ***
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I grew up a member of a Baptist church, and one of the things I and other high-school kids back then were required to do on occasional trips was go door to door in suburban neighborhoods and spread the Word while delivering pamphlets. I remember me and my friends appreciating what we were doing but often worrying that the next house we visited would be “the wrong one.” “The Book of Lambs,” Joshua Harrison’s entry for the 2014 Little Rock 48-Hour Film Project, takes that fear a step further, and I think that’s why it appealed to me right away. Here, we have two Christian boys going about their route to spread the Word…and then suddenly get mixed up in an exorcism! That is a terrific premise brought to life in an inventive seven-minute dark-comedy that was shot and edited for competition in just 48 hours.

Most of the action takes place in a rural home, where our two main characters, young Christian men named Isaiah and Jeremiah (heh), expect to either 1) carry through their mission, or 2) have the door slammed in their faces immediately. But instead, the boys (played by Harrison Tanner Dean and co-writer Matt Maguire) find themselves pulled into a truly bizarre situation they didn’t expect: a group exorcism for a demon-possessed woman in an upstairs bedroom. They’re reluctant but don’t have much choice, as their Christian beliefs can help save the day.

Or, as unorthodox Father Ray (Mark Johnson) puts it, “Let’s go drop a Cosby sweater on the devil!”

There’s a lot thrown into this short film, including a pagan journal, odd characters in masks (to be fair, I don’t think the main characters, including Father Ray, know what they’re doing here either), a laid-back exorcist (played by Bob Boaz) whose payoff is hilarious, and a very funny montage (with opera music playing over it) that involves numerous attempts to defeat the demon (I love the bit where one of the boys takes time for a few “selfies”). It all makes for a funny short that makes me wonder what the writing process for this would have been like for director Harrison and his co-writers, Maguire and John Schol. The night they wrote this script, they must’ve had silly grins on their faces. And the day they filmed it, I’m willing to bet they let the actors improvise, because they seem to enjoy themselves here too. And the night and following day they edited it…I imagine most of them were probably very tired after staying awake for nearly 48 hours. (Hey, that’s how it goes.)

“The Book of Lambs” is an absurd story, yet it’s fun and enjoyable. And I can tell this is a film made by people who must have had fun making it. That makes up for the short’s technical faults. I mean, it’s edited nicely and shot well enough, but the audio recording can be particularly distracting for the most part. But when I’m smiling, I don’t care that much about that.

Oh, and I need to give Harrison’s 48-Hr team, Team Bearshark, props for creativity from the very beginning. For those who aren’t familiar with the 48-Hour Film Project, it begins with a kickoff that has each team draw a random genre to work with (conceive, shoot, and edit) for the following 48 hours. They drew a “wild” card, which for them was “animal film.” What did they do? Where do “animals” fit in? Oh…just watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lUBheBxScs

NOTE: “The Book of Lambs” received two awards at the 48-Hr 2014 Awards Ceremony: Best Directing and Runner-Up for Best Film.

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