Millie Loredo did something many filmmakers never do — She saw her project through to completion. It is in its essence the importance of recognizing and completing your vision. For that alone, first time director Ms. Loredo should be applauded. At least she wrote her script, set out into the real world to make it and ultimately saw it through to completion. That in and of itself puts her above many other directors you can think of that are full of talk about helming a feature film and seeing it through for audiences to see. There is an old Chinese proverb that speaks to the joy of accomplishment, yet cautions those immersed in joy that the overzealous become indignant.
Small towns in Texas are supposed to be safe and shielded from grisly killings…or one would think. Detective Salinas (Melissa Mars) is assigned a case to discover who is responsible for the murders that have taken on the pattern of that of a serial killer. Shortly thereafter in La Sal, Utah, Mila Sweeney (Vannessa Vasquez) is kidnapped while traveling to her mother’s home. Feeling the heat from the investigators digging around in the Utah desert, the killers pack up their belongings, including Mila, and take them back to their hometown in Texas. After numerous foiled escape attempts, Mila finally gets away and enacts revenge on her former captors.
SORROW is based on accounts of a serial killing spree that took place some time ago. I expected the antagonists to be more original than what we were given. A cholo and a schizophrenic are not scary, although I need to give props to the hairdresser that did Mary Etuk’s hair, the female kidnapper. It was, in a word, priceless!
Let me emphasize that SORROW isn’t all bad. There were some good performances such as Vannessa Vasquez, Mary Etuk, Donny Boaz and Heather Williams. Some of the cinematography was worthy of mentioning as well as the concept of the story. The problems with SORROW, however, are many and encompass nearly every aspect of the film. Distributors have long since commented about their ability to determine a film’s value based on the credits and how often the director’s name appears. SORROW is no different. Immediately out of the gate, the film sets a dangerous tone.
When money for an independent film isn’t in abundance, something has to go out the window. With independent horror specifically, production quality is generally the first to go and is non-existent throughout this film. The problem with SORROW is the production quality yo-yo’d throughout the picture. Some scenes had sound issues and the coloring of the film was flat throughout. Perhaps I expected too much.
Some scenes were well lit and well framed yet others were the exact opposite. There is never an excuse for out of focus shots and, in one scene in particular, the focus was on the leaves in the trees in the background of a shot rather than on the principals in the car. This, coupled with the hand held cameraperson clearly suffering at times from grand-mal seizures during the shoot made for a very uncomfortable optical experience.
The casting of the film left me scratching my head at times. Vannessa Vasquez gave a strong performance as the lead character Mila Sweeney, yet I felt her performance could have at times gone to another level if pushed appropriately. By her own admission, Vannessa said that she did a great deal of research to prepare of the role and this was evident. It seemed as though she was so close to stumbling upon something special, but that never came. On the other side of the marquee, Melissa Mars was completely miscast as the Detective Salinas. Her performance fell flat and she was oftentimes very difficult to understand with her thick accent. Many other actors cast in the film delivered lines as if reading them off cue cards, virtually free of any emotion at all. This is particularly surprising as there were a number of the higher profile actors from around South Texas that participated in the film. Needless to say, the casting could have been stronger across the board if some actors flip-flopped roles with others in the cast, but I digress.
When attending a screening of a horror film that centers around serial killings, you might think there would be a tremendous amount of blood and such oozing throughout the film. Well, there isn’t. With throats being slashed and one particular victim being eviscerated, the blood would be both bountiful and plentiful. The blood looked as though it was being coaxed through a straw like a thick milkshake. This, coupled with the complete and utter lack of nudity in the film, will surely limit the interest of the genre’s typical audience.
The majority of everything else in the film was hard to watch and take in, like watching a short kid trying to dunk a basketball. No matter how hard we want them to jump high enough to flush the ball — it just ain’t happening. Not yet, anyway. Some say we all need to be supportive of female directors in the horror genre — and that might be true — but that support shouldn’t be blindly given by anyone. While revisiting the old Chinese proverb, remember that while it is acceptable to applaud the achievement of completing the film, don’t over indulge and get mired in overall mediocrity that exists on screen whether it is helmed by a female director or not.
Starring: Vannessa Vasquez, Melissa Mars, Andrew Sensenig & Eric Martinez
Director: Millie Loredo
Now Showing: Press Tour and Amazon DVD
MPAA Rating: R