Quench (2008)

Zack Parker's Quench review (click for larger image)Reviewed by Debi Moore

Starring Bo Barrett, Ben Schmitt, Samantha Eileen DeTurk, Mia Moretti

Written and Directed by Zack Parker

An Along the Tracks production

Derik (Barrett) is a young man obviously at a crossroads. Someone near and dear to him has just died, and he knows that he needs to give himself time. Time to grieve. Time to heal. The pain is too fresh and heavy. He decides to take a semester off from college. But instead of going to visit his family, he elects to hitchhike to Richmond, Indiana, home of his former best friend, Jason (Schmitt), whom Derik hasn’t spoken to in three years. As you might expect, Jason is surprised to hear from him so unexpectedly; nonetheless, they agree to meet at a bar on the edge of town. As it turns out, Jason has been through some changes of his own over the course of their separation. He’s now an emo-goth hybrid with thick black eyeliner and a new live-in fiancée named Veronica (DeTurk) who seems to be calling all the shots in their relationship. As a result of Roni’s influence, Jason has joined some sort of cult that calls itself the “Family.” But despite their differences, Jason still cares about Derik and opens his house to his old friend for a few days. That evening he and Roni take their visitor along to a Family gathering, where he’s not made to feel very welcome by the leaders, Mother and Father. He’s excluded from most of the night’s goings-on as Jason and Veronica turn him over to their friend Gina (Moretti), who gives him some type of pill that knocks him out and makes his memory hazy the next morning.

Next thing we know, “a few days” has turned into a few weeks, and Jason is getting a little tired of Derik’s moping about the place. He hasn’t found a job and isn’t contributing to the household finances. But, unbeknownst to the happy couple, he is enjoying spying on their lovemaking sessions, which involve quite a bit more than your average missionary position sexcapades. With a title like Quench, you know there’s some thirsty sucking of … something … going on. Even without realizing they’re being watched, Jason asks Derik to leave. He turns to Gina, who is a little too eager to take him in. You see, she’s part of the Family, too, but can’t be completely indoctrinated until she has her own partner, and Derik is like a gift from heaven as far as she’s concerned. They bond as he confides in her whom he lost from his life — something he never found the right time to tell Jason, his supposed best friend, about oddly enough — and soon she’s hiding him in the barn at Family headquarters so he can see exactly what their thirst-quenching ritual entails. Things meander on from there toward an eventual (but temporary) reconciliation between our two male leads, an orgy of sorts, and a revelation from Derik that takes the tale in an unexpected, yet apropos, direction.

Zack Parker's Quench review (click for larger image)Based on storyline alone, Quench is an unconventional and welcome entry in this year’s indie film scene. And it’s shot extremely well — it looks like the work of a director who’s made quite a few more than just two films. The Indiana scenery is striking, and the sex scenes are both seductive and stylish. Tasty, too! Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. Parker may be well on his way to success behind the camera; however, his writing skills need a lot more honing before he can be called a winner in that arena. Or maybe it’s in his role as producer where he faltered. There is no way anyone can watch Quench and think it worthy of a 98-minute runtime. At best, it fills three quarters of an hour. The script is padded with 20 minutes of boring chit-chat leading up to a 10-minute discovery followed by another 20 minutes of dull dialogue capped off by a 10-minute shocker. The audience must then suffer through a final 30 minutes of needless plot extension with a climax that should have been wrapped up an hour ago already. I’m a champion of character development and back story exposition, but Parker falls prey to the same curse so many other young filmmakers do: trying to stretch an ideal short film into a feature by slooooooowing eeeeeeeeeeverythiiiiiiiiing doooooooown to a snail’s pace and making eeeeeeeeeeverythiiiiiiiiing seeeeeeeem sooooooooo damn important. We understand that you have this great idea and want to showcase your skills in a feature length film, but you do yourself — and the medium — a huge disservice by drawing things out so much. It becomes melodramatic and pretentious, not engrossing or suspenseful. Something is definitely wrong if the biggest concern your viewer has is how much time is left rather than what’s happening onscreen. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a short film is best left that way.

Quench‘s other main downfall is the acting … or it could be the casting is slightly off. Schmitt’s Jason is never truly believable, and Barrett’s Derik is mostly comatose, never engendering the type of sympathy his character deserves. The lack of energy and credibility in these two guys’ interactions is a real detriment to the film. On the other hand, I will say the masturbation sequence is skillfully handled by all parties — that type of scene is never easy. Moretti’s Gina fittingly alternates between cutely appealing and plainly pitiful, but I couldn’t buy into her attraction to Derik. DeTurk’s Veronica is the shining star of the quartet. She’s the only one with real oomph in her performance, but she, too, peters out as she’s called upon to deliver lines that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Honestly, though, it’s hard to fairly judge the ensemble’s talents considering the poor choice of words their characters are forced to utter throughout. Points were also deducted from Quench‘s overall rating due to the TV movie-of-the-week style of editing employed by Parker. Instead of smooth transitions between scenarios and locations, things constantly grind to a halt as a result of the screen intermittently going black for a few seconds before revealing the next setpiece.

I could go on about what could have or should have been done to Quench; instead I’ll let this review serve as an example of brevity to Mr. Parker. But not before reiterating what I said a few years ago in my review of Inexchange, his first feature: “ I believe he [Parker] could have a bright future . . . if he finds himself a good editor.” I still believe that, but in order to achieve his goals, Parker needs to collaborate more with others who are able to rein in his ambitions a notch or two and speak honestly about the merits of his work. Not every concept is worthy of full-blown realization. Milk it for all you can, and then move on to the next one. Based on what’s done right in Quench, I have no doubt that there will indeed be a next one for Parker and, if he takes my well-intended criticisms to heart, that it’ll be even more satisfying to us indie fans who are always on the lookout for original and thought-provoking entertainment.

2 out of 5

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Debi Moore

I'll see you on the other side...

  • Chainsaw

    An independent moviemaker who has a reasoned, rational response to his movie not being reviewed in a favorable manner?


    Welcome to the fray, Zack.

  • Blockbuster

    I just want to say this: THANK YOU Zack for NOT coming on here and making this a personal crusade/attack on the reviewer…to be honest, that alone makes me want to see the movie that much more, just to get my own opinion of it…but I have to be honest, I’m the guy who has the attention span of a 4-yr old. However, if I run across it sometime, I’ll watch it. I have a certain respect for people who can get out there and actually MAKE movies. I think that rocks. Thanks man.

  • The Woman In Black

    Thanks for commenting, JD. It’s easy reviewing something really good or truly bad — it’s these midway between, heart on their sleeve indie films that are tough. I recognize a lot of raw talent in Parker and am trying to encourage it while still providing constructive criticism. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to see Quench yourself — I’d love to hear what other people think of it.

    • ZParker

      I hope you take The Woman in Black’s advice and derive your own opinion of the film by watching it yourself. I am quite aware that I am not making films for everyone, and judging by this reviewer’s take on my first film INEXCHANGE, I already knew that she was not my audience. Which is why I was somewhat shocked to see that she had been selected to critique one of my films again. The thing is, if I did heed her advice, I would no longer be making the types of films that I want to make or even want to see. I like films that take their time, are more introspective, and am honestly frustrated with the everdying attention span of American audiences. It just comes down to the fact that people look for different things when they watch a film. Some connect, some don’t. Such is art.

      • Uncle Creepy

        Actually, Zack, I watched the film with Debi and out of the two of us she had the more positive things to say about it. I found it plodding, overwrought, heavy handed, miserably slow, and the script didn’t do the film any favors either. I can assure you my attention span is in fine working condition too. Believe me, her writing the review? Not a bad thing. With INEXCHANGE she saw a young filmmaker with a lot of potential (and still does). That’s why she was chosen to write this review. I will say this though, some of the camera work was brilliant.

        • ZParker

          Well luckily, and you’ll find this too if you do some searching, that has not been the consensus. Look, I know everyone has an opinion, and that’s fine, all I was saying is that I am very aware that this film, including its (very deliberate) pacing and storyline is not for everyone and I hope people will watch it and form their own opinions. You tell me your attention span is in “fine working order,” I’ll take your word for it. But I’m sure that if we sat down and talked film, we would find that we have completely different tastes.

          In fact, I would be curious to know, from you and Debi, what are your 5 favorite films? This could be interesting. I’ll even give you mine:

          5. The Shining
          4. Repulsion
          3. Rosemary’s Baby
          2. A Clockwork Orange
          1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

          • Uncle Creepy

            I agree with you. The best reviews are drawn from your own opinions.

            My 5 favorite films? OK, for arguments sake and in nor particular order:

            The Shining, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Frankenstein (1931), The Godfather, Exorcist III

          • Terminal

            I loved “Quench” Zack. I find it hilarious that the review states this could have been a short film when that’s not even possible. The story is very credible as a feature length film. I don’t know what you were watching, but I saw something rather excellent.

          • ZParker

            Thanks, Terminal. I am glad you responded so well to the film. If I am not mistaken, I believe you are very credible critic in your own rite, and I think you liking the film backs up my point that people are just looking for different things when they watch a film.

            On a personal note, that line about it being better suited as a short film really got under my skin as well.

            Also, to clarify about favorite vs. best, I guess when it comes to thinking about film, I find the two to be pretty synonymous. I mean, I can’t consider a film to be a favorite if I don’t think it is one of the best ever made, Just me.

      • JD Fitch

        >It just comes down to the fact that people
        >look for different things when they watch
        >a film. Some connect, some don’t. Such is art.

        Too true. I loved SESSION 9, and still can’t believe some of the one-star ratings on Amazon (not many, thank god). As for your movie, there were enough positives in this review to pique my curiosity, and I’ll certainly give it a shot if and when I get the chance. Will it be available on DVD anytime soon?

        By the way, the avatar for your response is a much better movie poster than the other one. To tell you the truth, in the wider-angle pic with the review, I didn’t even notice the bloody tear. The closeup is much more effective.

        • The Woman In Black

          I loved Session 9 also — so at least we have that much in common! As for getting Quench on DVD, I found it on Amazon and added the link to the review. But it apparently won’t be available until October.

          My Top 5 films? That’s too hard. How about Top 8 since that’s my favorite number?

          Lord of the Rings trilogy
          Night Watch/Day Watch
          Fight Club
          Carpenter’s The Thing
          Dracula (the original)
          Eternal Sunshine
          Gilbert Grape

          With an honorable mention to my namesake of course, The “real” Woman In Black.

          • ZParker

            I am glad that my posts did not come across as an attack. I am definitely not here to talk people into liking my films, I believe they speak for themselves. I just want to make sure they have a chance to speak.

            By the way, I really dug SESSION 9 as well, as for Uncle Creepy and The Woman in Black’s top films, I really enjoy a couple in there as well, but as I suspected, I can can see where our tastes differ. I think all the films are good, really good actually, but would never consider them the BEST ever made. Again, it’s all subjective.

            And to answer your final question, the film is being released by Vanguard Cinema and will be available (almost) everywhere on October 28th. Just in time for Halloween!

            Thanks again, guys. I really enjoyed the discussion, and hope you all get a chance to check out the film.

          • The Woman In Black

            Ahhh, but your question was what are our favorites, not what we think are the best films ever made. That list would be a bit different.

        • Uncle Creepy

          Session 9 was an amazing film. Simon will always live in the weak and the wounded.

  • JD Fitch

    Excellent review. Good plot summary, positive points highlighted (what there are of ’em), and sound criticism for the rest. I look forward to more like this. (Reviews, that is, not the movie, though I confess I’m halfway curious to see it now…)

    Parker should’ve given that poster another thought or two as well. Doesn’t exactly pique one’s interest, does it.