He’s not Orson Welles, but at 21, local filmmaker Daniel Casey-VanHout has made a pretty damn good movie. Shooting began in 2001 and Casey-VanHout has been working on it straight through the subsequent years. And $10,000 later, The Passage looks pro with legit effects and solid acting (a pleasantly surprising leap forward from local horror flick Dead/Undead, which Casey co-directed). Even if it
doesn’t explore any groundbreaking ideas or storylines, it’s going to be a great calling card for the young man from Royal Oak — not to mention well worth viewing just to see what moviemaking on the cheap can be.
The Passage starts as a different movie than it ends, beginning as a revenge piece about a despondent ex-petty con trying to cope with the murder of his waitress girlfriend. The devil shows up in Andrew Hill’s apartment dressed in shades and a Members Only jacket (and doesn’t it go without saying that anybody in a Members Only jacket must be Satan incarnate?); he’s a graying robber who says he can put Andrew (Greg Dow) in a room with his girlfriend’s killer, a privilege that Andrew has been dreaming about since her death. The only thing that operatically named Guy Delmorte (Robert Emmett Young) asks in return from Andrew is help on an easy-money job the next day.
With another young crook, Seth Bridges (Brian Altman), in tow, Guy drags Andrew on what he says will be the simple swipe of a few million bucks. But it quickly becomes clear that Guy likes to mark his territory with his gun, and he needlessly kills an entire family during the course of the film. Seth
doesn’t have angst about using his piece, either — although he’s not such a fan of Guy’s penchant for shooting people in the back — and they both expect Andrew to feel the same. At this point, it wouldn’t be strange if Andrew took his boss’ example as a directive to let loose with all the rage pent up inside him. But he goes the other direction, pushing his urges deeper and deeper into his gut as he becomes more embroiled in a no-win situation that will doubtless end in death or jail — unable to fire a gun at another living creature and slowly coming to the realization that he really did make a deal with the devil.
The Passage is a class joint all around, with real-looking squibs bursting with real-looking blood, a solid musical score, a couple tight tracks from local rapper-producer Hush and a minimum of show-off cinematography. The movie bogs down a bit when it tries to get into philosophical territory, courtesy of a hostage who likens the senselessness of murder to the cruel anonymity of ships passing in the night — and Andrew becomes less the focus of the story than the bullet-riddled fight scenes and killings.
But the fights are well choreographed (giving a subtle nod to the Motor City by often being centered around garages and shot-up cars) and Casey-VanHout’s script serves its purpose without tripping over itself — or worse, egomaniacally proclaiming its presence and greatness. This film isn’t humble pie, but it’s not ostentatious. And right where it is — in the middle — is where Casey-VanHout ought to be.
Premiering this Thursday at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak) at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10. Call 248-542-0180.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].