Well, here's a creepy little music video/short film. "Blood On My Name" is a ten-minute short from Whitestone Motion Pictures that wraps a teeny bit of plot and worldbuilding around a fairly decent song. Major credits include Brandon McCormick as writer/director and Nicholas Kirk as writer/composer and performer (with Billy Wilkerson) of the title song. Sean Bridgers and Justin Welborn play the two leads.
Spoilers behind the cut, so go watch it before reading on.
Bridgers and Welborn are great throughout, but the absolute highlight is the last couple of minutes, when the soldiers are fighting their way through the Dread and the men are strangling to death on the gallows. Great suspenseful bit, and my empathy with the unmasked man's dying even as rescue comes was just painful. (I guess it could be considered an open question whether he actually dies or is cut down in time to save him -- brain death isn't instant with this kind of death. But I think he's meant to be dead.)
I thought the start was somewhat slow with too much crate-hauling and conversation before it really launched into the important part. I realize they needed to establish the atmosphere, but it dragged a bit.
Even the little bit of background that could be put across in this video was quite intriguing. Are the Dread aliens? Demons? A cult of magicians? Is there a war on between them and everyone else? Are they the evil overlords? What was stolen from them and why is it important? Was it going to the resistance? Are the Dread stronger than human or semi-invulnerable that the guys have no hope of fighting them off and the soldiers have such trouble even though the Dread seem to only fight hand to hand? I was quite engaged by the tidbits given and made curious to know more about what's going on in this world.
I liked most of the production design. The nineteenth-century style men's costumes (Dana Konick has the main costume design credit) are realistic and the washed-out colors very effective in getting that historical feel. But the Dread (separately credited to Erin Bushko) are a bit silly looking -- like the Ku Klux Klan in black with those hats, which is slightly surreal given the Civil War-era look of the soldiers. And the flapping robes are not terribly practical garb for hunting people in the woods, even though these were clearly not old-growth forest (and too bad -- that might have made filming more awkward, but it would have been more effective than the sparse forest they used.)
The props are good -- the scroll was appropriately mystical-looking and the crate they were hauling at the beginning was convincing. I know nothing about historical guns, so I have no opinion on those. The end credits are designed with care and have a lovely set of line drawings on a distressed background behind them.
The Dread's hanging technique is a little dubious -- a long drop that breaks the neck would be more efficient and avoid the whole danger of last-minute rescue. Maybe they were just going for the extra-torment aspect of slow strangulation. Or maybe it was so spontaneous that they didn't have time to set up a better gallows.
I enjoyed the title song, and I'm delighted that all the music is available for free download on the site -- it's playing as I write this. But I wish the character had not been lip-syncing it. I think it would have been more effective just playing in the background during the flight, capture, hanging, failed rescue, etc. Every time I saw his mouth moving, it broke me out of my involvement in the story to wonder why a guy who's being chased/attacked/hanged by the Dread is singing. I know it's a stage musical convention that life can be sung, and I have no problem with it on stage or in more overtly theatrical films like Repo! or most story-oriented music videos, but it felt odd to me with the very realistic style and the presentation as a short film rather than a music video.
Overall? I think the convincing acting, quality design, and, especially, the horror factor of the near-rescue made enough impact on me enough that I'm willing to forgive its flaws. I wish there was a novel or even a short story behind it to read.
I'll be curious to hear what others think.