Title: Fading of the Cries

Writer-director: Brian Metcalf

Starring: Jordan Matthews, Hallee Hirsch, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Brad Dourif, Mackenzie Rosman, Elaine Hendrix, Jessica Morris, Julia Whelan, Lateef Crowder

A hobbled sci-fi thriller that cobbles together various disparate mythologies, the independently produced Fading of the Cries clearly doesn’t have the money to compete with the genre big boys, but it also lacks an imagination in presentation or execution that might enable it to escape the downward pull of its limitations. Writer-director Brian Metcalf utilizes special effects as a sort of tech-age concealer, to try to spackle over various production cracks and shore up narrative deficiencies, but the result is a risible hodge-podge of quarter-baked cliches and jumbled action that is a non-starter for even generally forgiving genre fans.

After a noir-minded cold open that establishes the precarious mindset of a writer, Michael (Thomas Ian Nicholas), who’s just lost his wife and daughter, the film flashes forward to tell the story of his niece, Sarah (Hallee Hirsch). Fed up with her younger sister (Mackenzie Rosman) and mom, Maggie (Elaine Hendrix), Sarah goes out to meet up with a friend, taking along with her an amulet given to her years ago by her uncle. Within moments zombies attack, felling her friend. Out of nowhere, a mysterious swordsman, Jacob (Jordan Matthews, sporting an oddly prominent brow, and sporting what appears to be a Brandon Lee-era Crow Halloween costume), swoops in to save Sarah.

They set off on a quest of sorts, uncovering a labyrinthine maze of tunnels underneath Sarah’s small town, and eventually piecing together the story of Mathias (Brad Dourif), a wizard who cursed the town after the death of his wife. While a trio of differently-abled demonic minions do Mathias’ bidding, and try to regain control of the powerful amulet, the story alternates back and forth between the present day and the telling of Michael’s slow descent into madness.

Fading of the Cries desperately wants to be taken seriously, and never stops laboring to win an audience over. Ergo, it consequently hits, beat by beat, almost all of the expected confrontational set-ups. Excepting for a moment the extremely derivative nature of all of its material, distilled, the main problem is one of scope. The production obviously lacks the resources to compete with Hollywood studio projects, so why does it try to play so exclusively in the CGI sandbox? From digital doubles, keying and angry-mob simulation to CG blood, compositing, matte paintings and more complicated digital environment renderings, there is virtually every type of digital special effect on display in Fading of the Cries — more than 1,100 shots in all. Unfortunately, story takes a backseat. While Metcalf may — as alluded to in a recent interview — have had to devise some/many of these bits in post-production to help paste over certain filmed material, the cumulative effect is one of devaluation in the extreme.

The few bits or characters that do work — a creepy white creature who’s one of Mathias’ minions — are lost in a sea of unsteady special effects, and no one seems to be on the same page regarding the movie’s tone or mission. Even its marauding zombies, with their hollowed-out, CGI eyes, lack consistency; sometimes they run after our protagonists, sometimes they simply amass menacingly. A small handful of the supporting players exhibit a couple nice moments (Hendrix and Dourif most readily come to mind), but the ensemble acting is mostly characterized by a messy, unfocused quality. It certainly doesn’t help that Jacob isn’t given a very rousing or engaging backstory, but Matthews in particular comes across as a terribly unconvincing lead — lacking in any charisma, dark and brooding or otherwise. This is a dispiriting genre snooze, through and through.

Technical: C-

Acting: D

Story: D

Overall: D

Written by: Brent Simon

Fading of the Cries
Fading of the Cries

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By Brent Simon

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International, Newsweek Japan, Magill's Cinema Annual, and many other outlets. He cannot abide a world without U2 and tacos.

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