Starring: Rebecca Elizabeth Stevens, April Wade, Vanessa Ross, Shane Ryan, Vickey Rodriguez & Jeremy Williams
Written & Directed by Shane Ryan & Danielle Morgan
Featuring filmmakers Jeremy Williams, Theresa Lynn Kyriaco, Reid Ryan & Jason Freeman

Alter Ego Cinema

Polly Staffle Rating: **

From his first two feature-length productions, there are a few things you can assume from underground filmmaker Shane Ryan. First off, if he follows through with an idea, Ryan can create some pretty intense mind-blowing cinema. However, he doesn’t like wasting any footage he shoots. “Amateur Porn Star Killer” is an example of him following through on an idea. “Big Boobs, Blonde Babes, Bad Blood” on the other hand, is an example of Ryan’s footage frugalness.

The triple “BB” is a hodgepodge retrospective of short films hosted by April Wade (“The Ancient,” “Special Dead,” “Creepshow 3”), Rebecca Elizabeth Stevens ( “Slaughterhouse Phi: Death Sisters”) and Vanessa Ross (“Bikini Planet”). Featuring “tales from the underground,” the shorts star Ryan and were mostly directed by him with a few exceptions. A few shorts Ryan co-directed with his brother Jeremy Williams and Theresa Lynn Kyriaco. One Reid Ryan, no relation, co-directed with Kyriaco.

My feelings are extremely mixed on the final product of “Big Boobs, Blonde Babes, Bad Blood.” There is some pretty good stuff here, but there are also a few shorts I don’t feel work at all that probably shouldn’t have been included. Come to find out, some of the short films I didn’t like were actually festival winners, so what the hell do I know.

I’ll start with what I liked about the triple “BB” collection. First off, I think short compilations are a great idea. Not many indie filmmakers go this route and they should. I know Wicked Pixel does their “Severed Head Network” and Jason Santo had his “Bent” series, but for the most part there aren’t that many out there. What I like about Ryan’s is he ties them all together with interview clips of himself providing some commentary and the use of Wade, Stevens and Ross as hostesses. One thing I would have liked is for him to kick it up a notch and make the wrap around a bit more entertaining with more colorful characters that are both dark and sexy like Elvira, Vampira or Tempe Video’s “Bad Movie Police” even. You can really have some fun with it by having the hostesses bash you and praise you. Ryan does some of that, but I would like it taken further. I’m also a fan of the title. I heard he actually took some criticism because there weren’t enough big boobs or blonde babes I guess. But the thing is, this isn’t a porno, this isn’t “Girls Gone Wild” and if that’s what you are looking for, put something else on and come back to this movie when you want a little substance.

As far as the contents of this collection, “Isolation,” “So, We Killed our Parents” and Little Guy Kicks Ass” are all three great short films. Had I been looking at these three individually, they’d probably all be four-star picks. The amazing thing they show is the wide range Ryan is capable of as a filmmaker as these three shorts take you from atmospheric to violent and ugly to hilarious.

“Isolation” is a very dark and somber piece about a 16-year-old, played by Ryan, and how the loss of his mother has him feeling incomplete. Beautiful cinematography and the use of old and rustic settings like a drive-in theatre and deserted buildings help take the viewer inside the mind of the lonely and detached boy. The short, which is black and white and color, is fully complemented with a score by Ryan that is almost as surreal as the images on the screen. Though this was his first completed short film and he used tips he received from delivering pizzas to make it, “Isolation” stands as one of his most mature efforts.

“So, We Killed our Parents” is the story of an incestuous brother (Ryan) and sister (Vickey Rodriguez) that bash their parents’ brains in with baseball bats. Though the title may sound a bit campy, this short is pretty hard hitting and in your face. We not only see the brutal acts of violence, but are also shown how the seeds of hate were planted in the children and why they felt turning to each other for love and acting so vicious to their parents were their only options.

“Little Guy Kicks Ass” is Ryan’s take on David and Goliath in the style of an old kung-fu movie. The 5-foot-2, 115-pound Ryan is seen taking on two bigger guys, one being his brother Williams. This is essentially a really quick short that plays for laughs and the good thing is that it’s pretty damn funny.

The short “Yesterday” is another highlight, but it’s not quite as strong as the three previously mentioned. Directed by Ryan and Kyriaco, the focus of this film is domestic violence. It and the anti-drug film “Poison Cure” were both done in the span of 24 hours for a contest. Both films deal with strong subjects and are pretty impressive giving the timeframe they were produced in.

Shorts in this collection I kind of have mixed feelings on are “Cold Heat” and “Sane: The Story of the Boredom Killings.” “Cold Heat” almost seems like a sequel or a continuation of “Amateur Porn Star Killer” and having already seen that film, this one doesn’t really have any power. To me, I saw this short as the character Brandon from “Amateur” picking up another girl and taking her back to the same hotel. But the same actress playing the victim in “Amateur” - Michiko Jimenez – is here as the aggressor. So even if Ryan didn’t mean it to be this way, “Cold Heat” can be seen as a twin sister’s revenge. “Sane” is a take on reality television and the glamorization of criminals. This mockumentary short plays as two teenagers (Ryan and Williams) with a camera going on a killing spree. Ryan dresses in drag at one point and smashes someone in the head with a frying pan, but overall I felt like this film was going for shock instead of any kind of message or story.

As for the rest of the shorts on display, I didn’t really care for them. There’s a behind the scenes look at “Isolation” called “More Than 15…” that was directed by Jason Freeman. It is neat, but I don’t think it should have been included the way it is. Behind the scenes features are good, but I just didn’t like seeing this in the middle of other shorts. Save any behind the scenes stuff for its own special feature.

There were several other shorts I don’t remember a lot of details about. Some of the stuff is interesting to watch in being able to see where Ryan was at as a filmmaker/actor and where he has gone, but I also felt like there was some footage here he could have chunked in the trash. “Lucifer’s Mind” features some really cool imagery, but is way too short, running only a minute or so. Had Ryan took the visuals he used for it and edited it with the footage he used for several other shorts I think it could have worked better as the foundation for a four-minute music video. A number of these shorts were made out of a feature film Ryan never completed. “So, We Killed Our Parents” was one taken from that footage, but he probably should have stopped there.

As a cohesive unit, “Big Boobs, Blonde Babes, Bad Blood” ran about two hours. Had it been trimmed back to 90 minutes with a few omissions I think it could have been a lot stronger. That being said I’m definitely looking forward to Ryan’s next compilation of shorts. If he collaborates again with co-director Danielle Morgan and they follow through a bit more with the theme and make a few tough decisions to shorten the final product, they could have themselves a hell of a feature.

- CCF, July 2006

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