Upon a repeat viewing, it was all too clear, good reader. The one thing that might lead one to sit outside of the experience that is Act 2 lies in three letters.
Now, if you’ve ever tried to make one of these damned movie thing-a-ma-bobs, you’ll know firsthand just how much of a pain it can be to get the sound just right. Anything filmed outdoors must be re-recorded in post, because you’ve got that cranky-ass mother nature breaking wind all up in your mics. Any scenes filmed in an area where there is an engine (i.e., a car) will also require a fine re-dub, because you’ve got another fine series of auditory variables to deal with.
It’s a harsh truth, but any filmmaker – independent or not – has to deal with it. Only a subtle sense of how to properly form those edits can set you free.
Best Case Scenario – it’s unnoticeable. Characters outdoors or in a car speak and sound as if they’re actually in that specific place that they’re currently abiding. It’s like magic!
Worst Case Scenario – your film looks like some kind of bad Kung-Fu movie dub, and nothing seems to add up.
Now, not to say that Shift is crippled to the point of being polarized to the most negative extreme, but it’s definitely apparent enough to be somewhat distracting. It’s like having a little voice in the back of your head constantly telling you that something’s wrong – something’s off. We’re wired to pick up on subtle things like these, and when a character’s voice doesn’t resonate the way it should in a given situation, it can become all too salient.
But, I’ve seen worse – much worse, and once again, with a low budget to support effort stemming from passion, it’s excusable. It doesn’t mean it’s invisible, but it’s definitely excusable.
Now, the more obvious flaw here, which may or may not completely break the tone of the final five minutes is something that’s somewhat less excusable.
Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that our hitchhiker antagonist makes a very doubtful jump through time and space. With Ryan at the wheel of a motorized vehicle and his hitchhiker pal standing an obviously considerable distance behind him, he not only manages to catch up, on foot, but manages to find him with relative ease.
Because it’s unexplained, it leaves you involuntarily thinking to yourself “whoa, wait a sec” and in turn, casts the final climax – what’s assumed to be a crescendo of inner tension – into a weird, confusing light. With that final segment being the last five minutes of the film, you’re left not on a disappointing note, but on a confusing note – made all the more confusing by a final twist.
“Was the hitchhiker just trying to teach him a lesson?” “Is he just really resilient and likes laughing triumphantly?” “Was he a symbolic metaphor that only lived inside Ryan’s head – not unlike several of my own close friends – I mean, that would explain the teleporting thing.”
Each of these questions are demanded by the events of the final five minutes. Equivocality makes audiences feel stupid, and it makes critics rub their hands together in with glee. Be careful, my son.
But, one should bear in mind that one of these flaws could easily be avoided by a bigger budget, while the other could just have been avoided with more careful writing. It’s very clear why that scene “had” to happen, but it could have been handled in a way that was less ham-handed.
The Verdict: [rating:3]
It’s a good attempt at asking some important questions, but is somewhat still mired in the production problems plaguing many independent films. A decent story that’s stilted through post-production, and shot in the foot toward the final stretch, Shift isn’t near perfect, but it definitely stands out in a sea of its indie colleagues – Hell, it’s not even pretentious! The cast and crew definitely gave their all to make this movie happen, and it’s totally clear from the get go that it’s a pure labor of love. If independent films are your thing, I say give it a look if it happens to be shown at a festival near you.