“AIR CONDITIONS is a technical marvel that many independent short film projects rarely possess.”
Chicago filmmaker Ryan Oliver is not new to the filmmaking industry, having worked in the Chicago ‘Off-Loop’ theater scene as an actor and director for 10 years, then moved to Los Angeles and worked as a screenwriter and F/X specialist, before moving back to Chicago in 2007. Around this time was when I met Oliver, having gone along with a friend and filmmaker to the set of a film Oliver was directing that, to this date, still has not seen the light of day on DVD or any other kind of format for viewing. I got to do some stunt driving in that project, my only credit for that particular “skill” to this date.
After Oliver returned back to the beloved city of Chicago, starting up his own production company Deathblow Productions (notably recognized by the double-mirrored elephants as the graphic logo), and completed his first short film, AIR CONDITIONS which he directed, wrote, and produced.
Just last month, Ryan Oliver had his film’s premiere at Terror in the Aisles 13, hosted by Movieside. Having gotten to the event lake because I was outside smoking a fat cigar, I missed the first 15 or 20 minutes (of the short films’ total 34 minutes running time), but the very little that I saw really impressed me. I knew that I had to contact Oliver and inquire about getting a screener of the film to review.
In fact, I was more fortunate than I thought I would be because Oliver had a copy of the film on Blu-ray and let me borrow it so I could watch it in high def at home at my leisure. Having watched the 34 minute short film 6 times already, I feel it is time to write about it and inform SHU-IZMZ readers’ about AIR CONDITIONS.
AIR CONDITIONS stars John Fenner Mays, an air conditioner maintenance man, who goes on a maintenance call to Chicago’s industrial side of town on a routine A/C repair call. Once he gets there, he is met by the building manager, played by Leo Resudek, Jr. (who happens to show a striking resemblance to a Chicago music host personality in the punk and alternative music scene: Jerry Bryant (JBTV)) who takes the service man to the A/C unit on top of the tall building’s roof.
Once there, the repairman steps in some black, sticky ooze absentmindedly, and is stuck. This stuff appears to be stronger than the strongest glue or epoxy and he is not going anywhere. After many futile attempts to get free (he makes his second mistake by touching the dark ooze that was also located on the top of the unit while grabbing it for balance), he has come to the reality that he is totally and completely fucked.
The film is shot beautifully, the credit going to cinematographer Alejandro Garcia, and a seemingly simple and straight-forward plot had me thinking,
“Where the hell is this short going? What direction will it take now?”
I had thought the building manager was going to turn out to be some crazy maniac and come back with some butcher knives and carve the dude up later that night but instead he comes back with a tuba (I believe that is what brass instrument it was) and begins playing loud, blasting, notes that show zero skill or musical talent. Without ruining the whole film, I just have to say that what came next I did not see coming. I will say this though, there is a very cool amount of special effects, both practical and digital, and I was extremely impressed.
The film has an indie feel to it, a twinge of Lovecraftian charm, but possesses top-notch digital effects, pacing, and shot selection. The framed shots were beautiful looking, mostly because the top of the building they shot upon had a very wide and clear view of the city of Chicago and the shots capitalized on it. They used the panoramic shots of the city to its full potential and scope, using time-lapsed photography effectively to speed up the the film from the day shots to the night shots. AIR CONDITIONS is a technical marvel that many independent short film projects rarely possess. Great detail was shown to have been put into every shot, angle, and frame.
The special effects *spoiler* used on the creature in the film (hopefully this is not too much of a spoiler) looks top-notch and homage to the Alien films looks to be an inspiration for the creature’s mouth as a very similar gel-like saliva is seen dripping from the large jaws of the beast, much like the way in which the creatures in ALIEN did right before their outstretched teeth extended all the way to tear apart their prey. The effect in the ALIEN films looks great and it looks great in AIR CONDITIONS as well. Special effects artist Doug Goins gets the credit for this and the visual effects were created by Daniel Cervantes, as there is just not only practical effects used in the film.
At the film’s premiere last month, Ryan introduced the film and stated that it was three years in the making and the amount of work and detail put into post-production is very evident. A great deal of care looked to be put into the film itself, as hues and tones of the lighting and colors look to be flawless, a real beauty when viewed. Not only does the film look gorgeous, especially its use of long, wide shots and angles maximizing the scope of the clear, blue skies (Oliver filmed on a perfect, sunny, clear day) but the slow-burn speed of the film has an added depth to it due to an effective soundtrack and some flawless sound production courtesy of Gregor Mortis.
I guess my only complaint would be that the short horror film was that, a SHORT horror film, and not a feature length horror film. Mr. Oliver has a fine team of professionals assembled for the movie and this film buff hopes to see more work along these lines of quality and caliber in the future. I look forward to more films coming from Ryan Oliver and Deathblow Productions.