Admittedly, we don’t get to screen many independent films. With first run movies, the big studios go out of their way in L.A. and N.Y. to get their films out to critics and public previews. Even when we don’t get to those sneak peeks, the 20-plex up the street runs what we need to review, but indie films aren’t as easy to come by when you’re splitting your time up for the triple A titles. So it was nice to see PR at work when a disc with Wicked Bad showed up with the mail.
First time director Brandon Barker delivers up one of the most original plots I’ve seen in decades… a sardonically fun look at growing up and dealing with family issues. Awkward teen Edward Harvey has a hard enough time just getting through high school, but his problems just get worse at home. His mother is long gone and his father hasn’t had his wits about him for some time, so Edward’s over-testosteroned brother Hurley takes an abusive head-of-the-household role that keeps Edward in misery. His only outlet of expression and creativity is an interest in all things occult, so he turns to the one thing most teens his age turn to for guidance:
Hurley discovers Edward’s disturbing little past time and hires George, an out of work Shakespearean actor, to play the part of Satan himself in order to teach Edward a lesson. Despite his best efforts to scare the poor boy straight, Edward begins to look up to Satan…er..George as some kind of paternal replacement who can’t help to feel a fatherly connection himself.
Wicked Bad is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s already started to find its legs on the film circuit having earned Official Selection and Outstanding Ensemble Cast awards along the way. Kirk Smith’s George-slash-Satan absolutely steals the show with his performance as an evil fairy-godfather (with a heart of gold). Likewise, Matt Spangler’s Edward easily fits the awkward, nerdy but likable teen protagonist. Though I never dabbled in the Dark Arts myself, it was easy to relate to the character’s plight due in equal parts to the writing and Spangler’s performance.
Wicked Bad is very much a dialogue driven film, so it suffers from pacing issues that tend to make it seem longer than its actual 76 minute runtime. It felt like many of the scenes could have been edited down in favor of developing the secondary characters, like Edward’s best friend Adam (Rene Lopez) or his love interest Fara (Christina De La Ossa).
Though it lacks the Hollywood polish, Wicked Bad does have an original plot Tinsel Town is so starved for these day, and therefore deserves a look-see should you happen across a festival screening it or the DVD when it becomes available. For more details on where it’s playing, visit Discount Rocket Productions on Facebook: facebook.com/discountrocket.