June 5, 2010

The Ties That Bind (Review)

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The Ties That Bind (2009)

Director: Jeff Heimbuch


1.5 / 5 zedheads

There's a film-making adage that goes, "In your own film, never reference a better film." I would expand that further to say, "When adapting a short story, never include the superior short story with your DVD."

The Ties That Bind is an approximately 13 minute short film adapting Brian Keene's short zombie story of the same name. To be honest, I have not read any of Brian Keene's work. Since I started and finished University, I have been shamefully negligent in all my horror reading. Placed in the zombie canon that Keene started with his novel The Rising, The Ties That Bind film is about a husband whose wife has turned and been tied to the bed.

Apparently, in Keene's zombie world the dead still bite people, but zombiism is not spread through infection or bites. Instead, demons are inhabiting the bodies of the recently deceased -- and they can think, talk, and reason. Or that's what I gather from online research; the film makes absolutely nothing clear. It's a low-budget affair that tries to be a dramatic character study, but it is so poorly acted that it makes no gains in that regard. The effects consist of simple makeup and over-the-counter Halloween prosthetics. The whole film seems overwrought with seriousness that the actors and production values can't support.

Although the film was a bore, the DVD extras are interesting. One of the special features includes writer Brian Keene reading aloud his story "The Ties That Bind." I watched this extra and learned that the story is far gorier than its film adaptation, and it has a black streak of humour and ridiculousness running through its core that is completely absent from the overly sombre adaptation. The story is great. The film doesn't even come close to capturing anything good about the story. Reading the story after seeing the film casts a glaring light on the flaws of short; thus, never include the original material with your adaptation.

Other extras on the DVD include Brian Keene performing his own twisted version of Christian Bale's infamous on-set tantrum, actor Kevin Interdonato doing a hilarious series of impressions of Mark Wahlberg (where was this acting ability when he was on-screen in the movie?), the actors pretending to bitch about the director (another extra with more good acting than the actual film), and a director video blog.

Although critically flawed, the film's not a complete write-off. In its scant running time, Heimbuch shows some flair with the camera, especially when transitioning between flashbacks and the present day, but the film's focus on character dialogue simply sinks the film. The actors are either profoundly uncomfortable with the dialogue, received little direction, or just blew their lines completely on this project.

I can't recommend the short, but if you're a Brian Keene fan and can snag a copy of the DVD from its limited print run, you may feel more satisfied. The extras are definitely more entertaining than the actual short.