Friday, May 18, 2012

Cell Count Premieres May 20th at Fantaspoa: A Movie Review (Exclusive)

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*full disclosure: a screener was provided by Mr. Freeman.

**mild spoilers ahoy!

Director/Writer: Todd E. Freeman

Cast: Robert McKeehen, Haley Talbot and Christopher Toyne

Plenty of Portland, Oregon talent can be found in Cell Count, a film by Todd E. Freeman, also a native resident. Not only does the movie feature cast members who appeared in NBC's "Grimm," but it also showcases this director's other talents like penning a very thoughtful screenplay.

This movie is set to make its world premiere at the Fantaspoa, the biggest genre film festival of South America, in Porto Alegre, Brazil this weekend. Portuguese subtitles will be added and the directors of this show see tons of potential for this indie film. They are not alone. Among story analysts, they will find that Freeman crafted a product that will tantalize audiences in many ways.

The movie tugs at the heart string with a powerful moment that many viewers can relate to: the potential loss of a loved one. The drama comes from the fact that Russell Carpenter (Robert McKeehen) really loves his wife, Sadie (Haley Talbot). She's dying of some unknown disease, presumably cancer, and he will not let her go. Russell will climb the highest mountains in search for a cure. And when Doctor Victor Brandt (Christopher Toyne) approaches him to say he has it, Russell is intrigued.

The physician does say his treatment is experimental. There is an implication that the procedure is also not FDA approved.

At times, this movie moves like a twisted wray version of Riddley Scott’s Alien, but minus all the dirt and grime. During other times, this movie acts like a rallying cry to unite humanity to fight to the ravaging nature of any disease. But, eventually, this mysterious virus will spread.

Brandt may seem like the model physician in the hospital wards, but he has an agenda. Toyne's performance is what sells this product. His passionate zeal for the greater good is understated. Some viewers may want to fill in the blanks themselves by suggesting Brandt was one of those mad Nazi scientists who fled Germany. After successfully immigrating, he took up medicine in order to find patients to continue his experiments on. Although his accent is not distinct, that does not affect how wonderfully secretive this antagonist is.

When Brandt tells Russell that he can join Sadie in the testing of his new medicine, the movie takes on an ominous turn. The incidental music used only deepens the chills and it is a well orchestrated mix of styles to tune viewers to the emotions being visually expressed.

Sometimes, when a film takes place in one huge set, there might be a small chance of losing a few viewer's interest. In this case, the generic military facility the patients are in is modeled to represent a safe sterile environment. "The Facility," as it is called, takes on a greater meaning. The obligatory sex scene is quickly dispensed with and that may be the reason why Sadie's recovery is not being wrought with side effects. Adjusting hormonal control can do amazing things to the physiology of many a human. Russell is excited in more ways than one.

He has hope. Now united, both he and Sadie extend their faith to their fellow man, those other patients they meet in the facility. At first, there was some animosity, but it slowly fades away in favour for some team building moments.

Although Billy (John Breen), one of their fellow in-mates, does not easily take to the couple right away, he does find companionship with a dog. Breen shines in his role when playing with the mutt. And as other characters are introduced, Doctor Brandt does not get conveniently forgotten. He is observing the group while another kind of disease manifests, the sudden sense of isolation.

Freeman nicely introduces it when all hell breaks loose. But when there is the voice of a complacent Stewardess (Laura Duyn) from the public announcement system to insure everything is safe, some viewers may have to smirk when she announces that the facility will not be held responsible for injuries incurred while in unsecured areas.

The moments of uncertainty are wonderfully manic and unexpected. To say any more about where this film goes will give away its greatest secret. Based on the trailers and poster design though, this movie brings about a monster and a sense of body horror that is very cryptic in a Cronenburg kind of way; the humanoid being encased by its own lung lining makes for an interesting effect, but there's more than light gore to cause some audiences to lose their popcorn!

Plenty of mystery and subtext can be found in this film and that makes for a great film. But as for what will happen next, after the world premiere, will depend on who will survive this mystery plague. Freeman has confirmed that there will be sequel; it will no doubt continue from where Cell Count left off.

But first, this introduction has to get off the ground with distribution deals and film festival appearances. It's blasting off this Sunday, May 20, and the skies are all clear to go!

Overall: 8.5 out of 10.

The film's webpage is here:

Cell Count's Official Website

More on the film here:

Cell Count on Facebook

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