Where The Great Spirits Live Review
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Not long after her auspicious debut short film Two Rivers, writer/director Melonie Gartner almost immediately went to work writing the follow up short Where The Great Spirits Live, which happens to be the meaning to the word Manitowoc, which is the name of a sister city to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Though Where The Great Spirits Live isn't a conventional sequel just because it is a follow up. In fact, it's a prequel to Two Rivers! Yeah! Bet you didn't see that coming, did you? But true it is. And what would follow within the film takes things to the next level even though it back tracks to the beginning and tells of an origin story. One that is more chilling and haunting than its previous film. Let's recap what the plot of Two Rivers is, shall we? It follows a woman named Emma (Melonie Gartner) whom we discover is involved in a verbally and physically abusive relationship with her husband Dirke (played frighteningly and convincingly by indie filmmaker and actor Mark Borchardt, who you would recognize from the cult documentary film "American Movie" about Wisconsin Natives who go through the painstaking process of making their own film). Only Emma finds her own way out of that toxic relationship. For a 20 minute short it certainly was an ambitious piece. A film that actually spoke to people and resonated with them, even had something important to say. Where The Great Spirits Live is, like I said, an origin story. We meet Dirke and Emma at pivotal points in their lives and during a significant point in time for the city of Manitowoc, WI. And yet through all that happening, these two characters find a way to each other. A kind of love story blossoms, a love story that is in the process of being built on a foundation of horror and fear. The film's mood and tone is reminiscent of David Lynch, which should give you some indication of the kind of chill factor you're hurtling towards at a steady and creeping pace. Melonie's portrayal of Emma adds a different layer this time around. We see somewhat of a new side of her that we maybe hadn't fully comprehended and encompassed in Two Rivers, which adds to a delightful and startling reveal to the character! Mark Borchardt also adds a new dimension to his character Dirke. Which is a fantastic display of his acting muscle that Mark is flexing for us. The cinematography is flawless. Cinematorapher and Director Nathan Haban is a surgeon behind the camera! The man has an eye and a great one at that! With precision and an eye for beauty, Nate delivers a stunning looking film, especially one that is filmed entirely in Black & White! Melonie Gartner is a filmmaker that wants nothing more than to tell a story. She will go to any length to tell it and that most definitely comes through, especially in the two films she's made thus far. Hence makes her a force to be recognized in independent filmmaking! Take notice because this is one short that will grab you by the collar, or lapel if that's the case. Where The Great Spirit Spirits refuses to be ignored and doesn't seem to have any intention of going anywhere! So if you enjoy psychological horror films, short or feature, this is one to keep an eye out for!