Friday, June 13, 2014

One man, one dream, one movie

You have to like a guy who calls his company Just a Spark Films. Must be a moviemaking metaphor: You need a spark of inspiration to light a fire and months of sweat to keep it burning.

Don Johns is what French critics like to call an auteur: He's the "author" of "Do No Harm" in the truest sense. He wrote, directed and produced this debut feature, did his own cinematography, edited it after shooting and even composed the score. Here's the trailer:

He shot the film around Troutman. Like many an artist with a small budget and a yen to do a full-length project, he chose a familiar genre (horror) and set it in places where he wouldn't have a big construction budget: a rural house, a convenience store, an eatery off the interstate.

Johns begins in the usual way: Four friends (roughly of grad student age) take a road trip that carries them away from the highway and into trouble. When the "check engine" light goes off in their car, they ask for help at a solitary house. A wheelchair-bound father and his strangely glum son tell them the vehicle can be fixed in the morning and offer them shelter. But what's going on in the shed out back?

One development may catch you by surprise, but this isn't the kind of film that relies on plot twists. Johns wants to make our flesh creep by establish a menacing atmosphere, catching us off-guard or teasing us with camera angles. (One long tracking shot works especially well.) I liked the touch of the "Dies Irae," the ominous eight-note motif Rachmaninov inserted into most of his orchestral pieces, on the soundtrack.

You'll learn more about the movie here. Johns has been selling DVDs directly but says he has just signed a distribution deal with Panorama Entertainment, which means wider circulation for "Do No Harm." I always like to see a realized dream being shared with the world.