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.
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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