Get Out Alive
By Bryan Stumpf
Get Out Alive is the feature film debut of Northern NY State-based writer-director Clay DuMaw. The independent horror film has been available to rent or buy on Amazon.com since 2013, but I just acquired a rare DVD copy from Mr. DuMaw himself at a recent screening of his second feature, Hold ‘Em. DuMaw is an enterprising, do-it-yourself filmmaker in an area of New York State known more for dairy farming and paper mills than moviemaking and celebrity glamour. Around here, it’s an uphill climb getting a feature film completed – I should know, as I continue my slog through post-production on my 15-minute short film, Annulment. So kudos to Clay, for not only completing a debut feature film with serious gore and creature effects, but also completing a second feature. And from what I saw at the screening of DuMaw’s second effort, it’s clear he has acquired a fan base.
Get Out Alive centers on two siblings (David Fichtenmayer, Rhiannon Skye Roberts) stranded when their car breaks down in Northern NY State, who then fall prey to two truck stop denizens who need fresh meat for their bloodthirsty pet monster. The film starts out promising, with the truck stop Mechanic (Dave Iannotti) meting out revenge on his dick boss (Jay Storey) within claw’s reach of the growling, caged monster, concealed behind a grungy drop cloth thrown over the cage. The next morning the unlucky siblings wander from their dead car to the nearest auto garage, where the Mechanic happens to be running low on pet food.
For a movie supposedly about a mechanic, his assistant, and their man-eating pet monster – a killer premise, by the way – there are surprising, odd meanderings into Hostel territory and a few stretches of human hunting human horror reminiscent of 70s Wes Craven flicks, before they get around to the actually providing the monster with sustenance.
A common bane of first-time filmmakers, the writing for the characters suffers from unclear motivations and sideways logic. Supposedly, the jobless Mechanic endured the arduous task of caging the mysterious, rare monster with the hopes of making money off it, perhaps by showing it to curiosity seekers. So what’s with first giving the road trippers Bates Motel-type lodging to stay for the night, while the monster awaits his noon feeding? And later on, what’s with keeping them bound and gagged in the garage for days? There’s a moment when the Mechanic feeds one victim the ear of a dear sibling – I’m betting the monster would be pissed to learn of this misappropriation of human kibble.
Though we’re not lousy with Juilliard trained actors in Northern NY State, director DuMaw does recognize the cinematic merits of lingering on a distinctive face. It appears Iannotti is not a professionally trained actor – I never quite believed his turn from small town mechanic to torture-loving psycho – but DuMaw smartly lingers on his lean face and unnerving blue eyes, when everything else in the scene isn’t quite working.
DuMaw pulls off several imaginative shots throughout the film, and he bookends the film with an impressively seamless gore effect. However, at the splash of the ending gore bookend, he cuts to credits, creating what many will find a jarringly-abrupt ending. His finale is clearly nodding to horror films like The Hills have Eyes and Last House on The Left, but viewers unfamiliar with these films might be confused by the ambiguous ending.
Well aware of the limited resources for a filmmaker in Northern NY State, Get Out Alive is an impressive effort. Most impressive is DuMaw maintaining some quintessential Northern NY restraint in delivering the goods – there’s a post-credit sting scene involving the kind of expensive special effects that most directors would’ve placed front and center, somewhere near the movie’s climax.
Get Out Alive is available to rent or buy at Amazon.com.
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