Ties That Bind, The (Short, 2009)
Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Starring Logan Tracey, Kevin Interdonato
Written and directed by Jeff Heimbuch
Visit the film's official site
I'd be willing to bet that most of you are familiar with the works of Brian Keene. He's a pretty awesome horror writer, I think best known for his book The Rising (review here) and its interesting take on zombies. Keene's zombies are not mindless flesh eaters, but demons inhabiting the bodies of the dead. He's revisited his particular brand of zombies in other books (City of the Dead), novellas ("The Resurrection & The Life") … and short stories like this one, adapted for the screen by writer/director Jeff Heimbuch.
"The Ties That Bind" is a really simple story about a man who loves his wife and refuses to give up on her, even when her body has been inhabited by a demon. Now that's some true fucking love right there. Kyle (Interdonato) and Tracy (Tracey) are a couple who love each other very much, so when Kyle is unable to save Tracy from being bitten, he does the next logical thing … he ties her to a bed in their house and spends as much time with her as he can. Kyle seems to think if he talks to her enough, his wife will come back and they'll be happy again.
Heimbuch, who's written and directed several shorts in various genres over the last couple of years, handles the visuals competently. There's no flashy or gimmicky camera work here, which, in an age of shaky cam and over-stylization, is a breath of fresh air. There is a bit of awkwardness in the staging of the zombie attack scene when the interaction among Kyle, Tracy, and the zombie seems uncoordinated and somewhat goofy, but it's over quickly, and then it's on to the good stuff.
Heimbuch's real strength, though, is in working with actors. When performers get what they need from their director, whether it's comfort and understanding or to be challenged and pushed, they seem to give better performances. I think this tends to be a problem with a lot of low budget work; the directors are newer and not as sure of themselves so they aren't able to provide their cast, who are also newer and not so sure of themselves, with the support they need, which ends up resulting in a bad performance. That is definitely not the case here. Interdonato is quite believable as Kyle, a man who loves his wife so much he is willing to do anything to get her back. His emotions are very heartfelt and convincing, and it's through him the viewer really connects with the story. However, it's Tracey's turn as Kyle's possessed wife that really steals the show.
Before I go on, I have to tell you a little story. I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was about seven, which also coincides with the time I became a horror fan. So, if you were to tell the people I went to high school with that I was writing reviews of horror movies and books for a site called Dread Central, I doubt they'd be all that surprised. Their response would likely be something along the lines of "That figures." I doubt the same thing could be said of everyone, but some people just find their niche early. There was a girl I went to high school with who was in chorus and in all the plays, for example. She had a great voice and was always pretty good, if not amazing, on stage as well … one of those talented, smart, AND pretty, seemingly perfect girls that girls like me were kind of jealous of and said they hated. So I shouldn't have been surprised myself when I turned on the DVD of "The Ties that Bind" and saw that girl in the lead role, but I was. Generally, when a director sends me a film for review, I don't expect to see someone I went to high school with starring in it.
Part of me, that sort of jealous high school part, would have felt a little vindicated had Tracey turned in a less than stellar performance (not all that perfect after all, hah!). The rest of me, the grown-up part, is happy to be able to say that's not the case. Given the brevity of the material, Interdonato is only able to portray the heartbroken loving husband who's desperately hoping he can somehow save his wife. While he does it well, it's only one note he gets to play. Tracey, on the other hand, gets to wax from a wife gazing lovingly at her husband to pissed off demon to crafty pissed off demon pretending to be said loving wife. It's a fun ride.
She commits to the material absolutely, making the role nuanced and incredibly believable. Most of the lines are hers, and she delivers them all with equal conviction, but nothing rivals her struggling against her bonds and shouting, "Release me!" What could have come off as ridiculous or stilted in the wrong hands is instead a riveting performance. She pulls of the sinister and angry aspects of evil beautifully. I'd love to see her in something feature length. Tracey's a bright star, and where I may have been envious ten years ago, now I'm just a fan.
"The Ties that Bind" is making festival rounds now; if it's playing near you, definitely check it out!
4 out of 5
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