Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Land of College Prophets

The world of independent underground filmmaking is a tricky business. Apart even from the acquisition-obsessed world of the festival circuit, underground filmmakers often have to deal with self-distribution, lack of PR, inadequate marketing funds, etc. This leaves a great many of worthwhile films treading water in obscurity.

The Hale Manor Collective (including Mike Aransky, Philip Guerette and Thomas Edward Seymour) has unleashed a wildly creative and ambitious independent feature, The Land of College Prophets, which may suffer that very fate. With whip-smart writing, quirky characters (and actors) and a propulsive, addictingly playful aesthetic, The Land of College Prophets has the potential to be a sleeper cult film in the future. It's the greatest Alex Cox film that Alex Cox never made.

The diabolically obtuse plot involves a cast of vivid characters, including "Irish" Jonah Joe, Third Reich Jones and Rye (among many others). The Well That Ate Children is poisoning the townspeople and making them insane, including some of the College Prophets. The remaining Prophets must join forces to battle the Well and save the world with might, muscle, brain and magic.

While the plot synopsis may read like something out of a bad B-movie pitch, The Land of College Prophets is filled with comedy, wit and an undying dedication to a dynamic narrative. It has goofy fight scenes that, while they shouldn't, work like gangbusters. Even the bits of dialogue that are a tad goofy (and there isn't much of it; this is an expertly written film) are given terse, affecting line readings. The cast of nonprofessional (or, at least, unknown) actors are among the best I've ever seen in an underground cult hit wannabe.

I have no idea what kind of distribution is in place for the film (I viewed it on a review screener), but I hope something picks up steam soon. It will never be a box office hit (there's no money in the underground), but The Land of College Prophets could easily become the first genuine cult hit of the DV era.

It may even end up being one of the better independent genre films of 2006.

Grade: B


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