MOVIE: Ludlow (2010)

Last weekend, I finally had the 70-some-odd minutes of free time needed to sit down and watch this short film, written and directed by amazing Renaissance woman Stacie Ponder (she’s an artist! she’s a writer! she’s a filmmaker! she can juggle chainsaws!) (okay, I don’t know for sure about the chainsaw thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, is what I’m saying).

Over the last year or so, Ponder’s been blogging regularly at Final Girl (her terrific horror movie site) about the trials and tribs encountered while making this film, which I gather is her first feature-length-ish production.    I studiously avoided ALL of these posts, because I wanted to wait to get the backstory until I saw the actual story.  When she finally posted a month or so ago that Ludlow was at long last available on DVD, I emailed to beg her for a copy.

That’s right, I BEGGED.  And I feel no shame whatsoever in admitting that, either.  You know why?  Because I knew that even if there were something dramatically wrong with it — maybe the film quality would suck, maybe the actors would be insufferable, or maybe, well, any other of the wide variety of flaws you sometimes encounter in low-budget indie films — I knew at the very least, it was going to be SMART.  And smart is the one thing that will make up for almost every other thing in my book.  You could shoot it on an old iPhone, cast it with maudlin high school drama nerds, and use synthesizer musak for the soundtrack, and if it had a smart script, I’d still love it.

Lucky for me (and you, and you, and that guy over there), if I had to pick something to complain about when it came to Ludlow, it would be the fact it’s not twenty minutes longer.  I was sorry to see it end;  I wasn’t really ready for it to end.  More stuff could’ve happened.  More story could’ve been told.  I was totally in for a longer ride.  I was THAT engaged.

The story focuses on a young woman, Krista (Shannon Lark), who, as the movie opens, is pulling into a cheap motel in the middle of the deserty nowhere.  Once inside her room, she makes a phone call to her sister that tells the audience everything it needs to know about her situation — she’s on the run from an abusive boyfriend and has plans to connect with her sister in a few days to start over.  In the meantime, she’s gonna hole up in her motel room, hide from said boyfriend, drink to excess, and wait for her sister to come get her.  But as the days go on, strange things begin to happen: she starts bleeding for no discernible reason, she is beaten by her boyfriend only to discover he’s not really there, she finds a dead body outside the hotel.  It looks like her.

At first, we aren’t sure what we’re really seeing — what is real and what isn’t.  But as the film continues, it becomes more and more clear that what we’re seeing is this:  madness.

Shannon Lark is an actress I’ve never seen before, but man, is she ever ready to go major places, if you ask me.  Her portrayal of Krista is so real it was hard for me to disconnect from her and from the film after it was over.  The way she talks is so authentic somehow — the sentence fragments, the pauses — the way she cries, the way her face changes with emotion or fear.   She totally blew my mind in this film, and I can’t wait to see her in whatever she does next (or, for that matter, whatever she’s done before).

I also loved the way this film was shot, using a grainy film quality that made me feel like I was spying on the characters from another room, as well as a series of camera angles and lighting tricks that subtly but effectively conveyed a sense of disconnect from reality.  Every time Krista opens the curtains or the door of her room, for example, the sunlight outside — the light of the real world — is blindingly white.  It’s painfully white, in fact.  It reminded me of one of the most powerful scenes of Haneke’s The White Ribbon from earlier this year, in which a man is sitting in a small room grieving the death of his wife, and all we can really see is the eye-boring blast of white sunlight coming from the window over his head.  That contrast between the darkness of one character’s reality and the blinding light of the world outside them is so effective when it’s used correctly, as it is in both these films.  I love subtleties like that — things your brain picks up on that paint a fuller picture without your conscious involvement.

I went back this week and read all of the making of Ludlow blog posts at last, and now that I’ve got the backstory stored away in my brain, I’m extremely excited to watch the film again, knowing I’ll be picking up on even more nuances in both the script and the cinematography stuff the second time around (I’m also planning to rent Roman Polanski’s Repulsion soon, because it’s been forever since I last saw it, and Ludlow reminded me of it in a few places — watch for a review of that one here next week).

If you’re intrigued, you can get a copy of Ludlow yourself by heading over to http://stacieponder.com/?page_id=417 (it says preorder on the site, so it may not be available quite yet, but you can at least get in line — $11 is a steal for it, too, if you ask me, especially since you’ll be helping to support future Ponder projects).

Anybody who appreciates smart, original horror will find much to appreciate in this film, and I’m not just saying that because my name is in the credits.  Although, that too.  (A lovely surprise, I might add.)

Highly recommended!

Genre: Horror, Psychological thriller
Cast:  Shannon Lark, Elissa Downing, Ned Christensen

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2 Responses to “MOVIE: Ludlow (2010)”

  1. a new review | stacie ponder Says:

    […] There’s a new review of Ludlow in town, and it’s over at Senceless Pie. Read it! Share it! LOVE […]

  2. Liz Says:

    Not to be a nudge (Okay, so I’m a total nudge), but when are we going to be treated to Meg’s Top Ten Lists?? Maybe after “The Holidays,” in January, if things calm down for you!

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