I was first introduced to the independent film The Van, when the filmmakers inquired about submitting a behind-the-scenes article for the site. The article (read it here) peaked my interest (as I hope it did yours) so I eagerly popped in the screener DVD a short time later. The real key to having your indie film stand out (good or bad) is to make your film simply because you want to make it. As selfish as that sounds, if you make the film for yourself and no one else, that's certainly a step in the right direction. Too often indie films are made to formula, the filmmakers putting together a production that they think will sell or warrant distribution. At this point they are no different than the majors. My advice, make the film that you want to make, take a risk and put your heart and soul into it - at this point whether the film is good or bad, you and your film will stand out. The Van, while not without its problems is one such film - with heart, and it certainly does deserve to be noticed.
The Van is split up into 3 short stories, each of which has been written and directed by its own visionary. While the horror anthology is certainly an easy way out for first time directors, here the effect is put to good use. Each filmmaker has taken the central character of this beat up, baby blue, rusty van and incorporated it into their story. The first story (which also serves as the wrap-around) centers on a young man, who eagerly picks up sexy young hitchhikers (no one I see hitchhiking in Philly looks like these fine young ladies). He sweet-talks them for a few only to dispose of them in the back of the van moments later. He then drives them around while looking for his next victim. Eventually, the kin of a few of his victims step up for a little revenge. Story two revolves around a young man who purchases said van to impress his French foreign exchange girlfriend. Unfortunately the site of his new ride only sets her into hysterics which infuriates the young man to no end. Eventually, the van takes over as madness ensues. Finally, the third (and most impressive) story revolves around a mentally challenged young man named Paul (Nick Daley, who happens to be mentally challenged in real life) who happens upon "the van" (how he happens upon the van itself, needs to be seen to be believed) and decides to make it his own. Once again, the van takes over and eventually Joey snaps - exacting revenge on those who have wronged him, including one of his overly mocking bosses.
I have to give credit, The Van has a lot of positives. I like the idea of carrying over the character of the possessed van from each story - and while a bit predictable at times each of the stories are fairly well written and acted. Definitely an above average affair here, the real reason to seek out The Van is for the second story, involving the mentally challenged Nick Daley. In this instance, the story is extremely well executed and just odd enough to stand out on its own. Throughout each of the stories, performances do range, but overall a nice ensemble of amateur actors has been assembled. At times motivations seem a bit silly, and the short stories allow the filmmakers to open end with really no resolution, but overall The Van is a valiant effort and I say keep at it.
Shot on video and presented full frame, The Van looks and sounds about as good as in indie SOV film can look. Audio is a bit low at times (dialogue mostly) so when you kick up the volume a notch to hear, be warned that a hard rockin' indie tune isn't far behind to give you a bit of a jolt. The only extra was a trailer, it's unknown as of now whether or not its final release will include more.
If The Van shows one thing, it's promise. Those on the lookout for the next interesting indie flick they can get their hands on would be wise to give The Van a once over. I'm intrigued and look forward to see what the folks behind The Van have in store for us next.
More info at www.tritoadfilms.com