Caught somewhere between the worlds of punk apocalyptica and 80's nostalgia, prolific writer/director Shane Ryan's Guerilla is as stylish as it is brutal and engrossing. The 13-minute short starts off in a way that sort of weaves together John Hughes with Harmony Korine, a 1989, rainbow-tinged scene of hangouts and mall moping soon to be met by tragedy when a rocket launched by the U.S. military explodes just after take-off causing the town nearest the military base to become infected by a virus that fuels rage and destruction. Into this scenario climbs young Mars Mohamed, a 10-year-old filmmaker who appear to be immune to the virus and surfaces as what may very well be the town's only hope.
Guerilla is an unusual beast of a film, marrying Ryan's impact for low-budget, raw and gritty filmmaking with twists of social impact and a willingness to go directions you won't find many filmmakers going. He's also willing to shoot a film the way it needs to be shot to tell its story, less concerned with selling it to the masses and way more concerned with artistic integrity.
Such is the case with this film, where spoken dialogue is shunned in favor of images and a mighty fine 80's fueled musical accompaniment that gives everything going on spark and meaning.
You may not recognize the name Shane Ryan, but he's a familiar face to anyone familiar with the world of indie horror and indie experimental both as an actor and a filmmaker of both shorts and features. He seems to be one of those indie artists who exists to create and that need to create leads to a wide variety of works across the spectrum including this rather spectacular, immensely entertaining effort.
It helps, as well, to center the film around the presence of young Mars Mohamed, who looks like he may have stepped out of Mad Max's world but whose presence instantly draws you in and holds your attention with nary a word spoken. I can't decide if this kid's future is in a skate park or killin' zombies or, maybe, in some late night feature called Skate Park Zombies.
I just made that last title up, but I like it.
Ryan has been on the cinematic scene for nearly 25 years, with credits ranging from Samurai Cop 2 to directing the acclaimed My Name is "A" Anonymous. Heck, he even shows up in an uncredited scene in The Disaster Artist. If you are wondering about Ryan's overall vibe, all you have to do is look at the list of people that he thanks in the credits to Guerilla. It's a list that includes everyone from American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis to Charlie Sheen to Heather Graham to Slater, Stallone, and Van Damme.
Think 80's, folks.
Guerilla isn't for everyone. It's experimental, aggressive, unafraid and more than a little bit in-your-face. Ryan pulls no punches, saying what there is to be said and trusting that those who embrace his artistic vision will go along for the ride. You may not see Guerilla at your neighborhood multiplex, but you'll remember it in your dreams.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic