Artie Saves the Hood
Director: Ed Radmanich III
Artie Saves the Hood may be not much over 35 minutes long. It may have been shot on video in people’s houses and gardens. It may be written, directed, produced and edited by the star and it may have a cast and crew made up of his friends. But none of that matters because Artie Saves the Hood succeeds in what it sets out to do.
This is a very, very funny film.
Comedy is often a very difficult thing for ultra-low budget indie film-makers to pull off. A lot of it is in the timing so you need very good editing. You also need - and this is crucial - a funny script, plus people who can act and production values which won’t obscure or detract from the gags. Action movies and horror movies have their own problems, but comedy is probably the toughest genre to work in at the bottom rung of the film-making ladder. Mind you, it’s pretty difficult at the top of the ladder too and I’m sure we could all name one or two big budget ‘sci-fi comedies’ which fell completely flat.
So I’m delighted to announce that Ed Radmanich III (as the phrase has it: crazy name, crazy guy) has put together a thoroughly entertaining little film.
Radmanich stars as Artie Guy, a pretty relaxed sort of fellow whose main hobby is hanging around with his mates video game addict Mason (assistant director Jason Brown) and porn addict Fry (fight choreographer Kai Kekai). Occasionally he seeks wisdom from his other friend Manny (art designer Manny Marmolejus) or takes time to mock his Hispanic neighbour (Jon Maraspini).
Artie’s problems start when he finds something which looks like a bar of green soap stuck in a hole in his wall. When it gets wet, this has the power to teleport him. The ‘green soap’ originated in another dimension where black-clad, masked stormtrooper types are chasing the last two rebels (or whatever they are). They kill the guy (Alex Mackey) but the girl (Victoria Walters) escapes into our dimension, armed with a bar of ‘blue soap’ which can blast small fireballs. The stormtroopers follow the girl to our world but they haven’t reckoned with the laid-back but well-armed Artie and his friends.
A lot of the film is Artie and Mason blasting casually away at the bad guys, who apparently - despite being thoroughly evil - aren’t familiar with the concept of guns. A lot of the comedy comes from the characters’ casual acceptance of these events. Artie and Mason are to some extent descended from Bill and Ted by way of Jay and Silent Bob - a couple of slackers who end up saving the world despite themselves. They're the American equivalent of the three boreed English guys in Life's a Blast. This is the sort of film where one character can casually describe the problem as “ninja Nazi clonebots from another dimension” and his friend will understand - and accept - this without question.
While the acting is, shall we say, variable, the limited emotional range displayed by the characters works to cover up that slight deficiency. And there is some great dialogue here, my favourite exchange coming after Artie has blasted a pasty-faced Manny who was trying to gnaw on him. “He was a zombie.” “Really?” “Hope so.”
Radmanich’s direction is faultless, with each scene and each shot as taut and tight as necessary. The special effects by Phil Mohr (who is also credited with music and cinematography) are great, with people appearing and disappearing in a shaky, sparkly effect that would have been the preserve of the big studios not so many years ago. But what is really impressive is the army of clonebots because, a little way into the movie, something dawned on me.
These guys have only got two of these costumes.
Tight editing and creative camerawork - and a few shots with multiple green-screen effects - have created dozens and dozens of these black-costumed grunts. But, aforesaid effects shots aside, there are never more than two on screen at any one time. However, as I said, it took me a while to notice. And after I noticed, it didn’t matter. It takes real skill as a director and editor to overcome a limitation like that.
Another brave move is having all the bad guys - and the girl they’re chasing - speaking interdimensional gibberish. This is subtitled in the early scenes but after a while subtitles become superfluous and the untranslated alien tongue just adds to the humour.
But what is most commendable about this film is its brevity. A lot of people would have been tempted to pad it out to about twice this length and sell it as a feature, but Radmanich clearly knows that too many short features still manage to outstay their welcome. Truth be told, there probably is enough scope in this story and these characters to fashion a feature but kudos to the writer-director for making the choice to go for a half-hour short.
The home-produced DVD includes a trailer and a two-minute short film called Bad Night which is basically two guys fighting in a living room. It’s a well-shot, well-lit, well-choreographed fight - but that’s all it seems to be. There may be an inside joke there that I’m missing. There are also three entertaining animations about ‘Artie Guy and Jay’ which are seen briefly on some TVs in the main film. Crudely animated using some process that seems to fall midway between Flash and Etch-a-Sketch, these betray an obvious South Park influence. And damn me if they aren’t almost as funny as the main film. The longest one is an impressive nine minutes and maintains its high comedy level the whole way through.
I can honestly say that Artie Saves the Hood kept me laughing for a full 35 minutes without the aid of alcohol. It looks like it was made for about $2.49, certainly, but it has been made with skill, with talent, with enthusiasm and, most importantly, with an understanding that even low-budget films have to please an audience. Two thumbs up (or whatever it is those American fellows say) for Ed Radmanich III and his terrific little film.
MJS rating: A-
(Artie and Mason returned a few years later in Coldspot.)