You've done it. I've done it. We've all done it.
We've all sat down on our comfy couches flipping through Netflix or Prime Video or whatever streaming channel we prefer. It's late at night. We can't sleep. It's cold or snowing or raining or we're just old and tired and prefer the warmth of a blanket over the hot sizzle of a night on the town.
We find ourselves digging into the deepest corners of our favorite streaming channel where the ultra-indie flicks hide and where we can discover some obscure low-budget flick that never found its way to a multiplex.
Sometimes, for good reasons.
Occasionally, we discover a real indie gem. More often, we find ourselves chuckling at some low-budget, low-production value indie project by some no-name director we've never heard of. Sometimes, we chuckle our way through the experience. Sometimes, we fall asleep before the closing credits roll. Other times, we make a point of leaving our one or two-star review with a few snarky comments about how this is "the worst film ever."
Sometimes, and I'm guilty of this, we forget that there are human beings behind that low-budget, low production value film who've chased their dreams, maxed their credit cards, taken big risks, and gone where no man (or woman) has gone before - making an actual feature film against an awful lot of odds.
Oregonda, an indie sci-fi project shot in rural parts of Indiana and Illinois, isn't a perfect film by a long shot. It's a passion project for sure, a beautifully flawed low-budget effort written, directed by, and co-starring Leanne Johnson and Eric Shook in a fairly straightforward sci-fi storyline about a damaged spacecraft, the Oregonda, a bio-weapon that's in the wrong hands, and a mission to save the world.
Oregonda is so cheesy it's pleasing.
Oregonda is the kind of film that some people will come across during their late night movie searching and loudly exclaim "OMG, these special effects are so lame!"
Oregonda isn't for them. Oregonda is for the hardcore indie cinema lover who's knowledgeable enough to know just how much Johnson and Shook have accomplished with a budget not much beyond the toilet paper budget for a certain, and I'd dare say less satisfying, James Cameron flick. Oregonda is for the discerning moviegoer capable of looking beyond production deficits and hit-and-miss acting to see the spark at the center of it all. Oregonda is for those movie lovers who've wondered if it's possible to tell a meaningful sci-fi tinged story with less than a multi-million dollar budget (HINT: It is!).
In short, Oregonda is for those of us, myself included, who are capable of immersing ourselves in imperfect cinematic worlds where the journey is more important than the destination.
In Oregonda, Star Force Galactic Command is at war when intel is obtained of an enemy bio-weapon. Despite helming a damaged spacecraft, Captain Collins (Johnson) and Major Hughes (Shook) embark on a reconaissance mission to save the world from the dastardly plans of Soran (Jeff Angel).
Oregonda possesses an undeniably retro vibe that is so strong I half expected red shirts to show up. Early Star Trek is always around the cinematic corner here, partly out of budgetary necessity and mostly out of a deep love for classic sci-fi by both Johnson and Shook. Unsurprisingly, Oregonda is at its best when its focus is on the duo of Shook and Johnson. The two possess a rather delightful chemistry that is always fun to watch.
Oregonda is a bit less satisfying when the focus veers away from Johnson and Shook, though Jeff Angel delights as Soran and up-and-comer Jonni Shandor shines as young Davya. The film's original music by Shook and Brianna Tam is also a nice complement to the often stark, realistic storytelling.
There's a grave sense of distance and isolation throughout Oregonda that is amplified throughout its 83-minute running time. The story itself is gently paced and slowly revealing offering time and space to get immersed in these characters and their choices.
There's little doubt that Oregonda won't please all with its low budget evident throughout, though once i found myself shifting into its retro, classic sci-fi vibe I enjoyed myself immensely and appreciated the risk-taking and ambitious filmmaking.
While most people are likely to prefer the big budget, high-tech world of Pandora, for my money I'll gladly immerse myself in the "no frills" world brought to life in Oregonda anyday.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic