Synopsis; After failing to capture a Fabricator to aid his village during desperate times, the lone Outsider is captured by the COG to be drastically interrogated for answers about the attempt. However, this is cut short by a disruption above ground and outside of New Ephyra, leaving the Outsider to run and fight in desperation of survival against an unknown foe.
Let me start off with saying that I have never played Gears of War and know only one thing about the franchise as a whole, which is that I have always loved their imagery, especially the logo art… But that is it! As such I can’t comment at all about how this ties in to the franchise, how accurate it is and what the monsters and weapons are supposed to look like. This review is based entirely on the creative merits of the film.
To give you some context, I found out about this project from a Facebook friend of mine. This is the first project for Ryan Gray / RG Productions who is just 19, so fresh out of school and until COVID-19 hit was hoping to head in to an apprentice position in the film industry… If this film is anything to go by and the dedication and ability to learn it clearly demonstrates I think he’d be an asset to snap up! He learned a little bit of post production work in his last year or two of school but 3D VFX (which I think is what he wants to focus on) is something which he only started to do at the start of this year and is something he is 100% self taught in!
Keep that all in mind when you watch this short film, which feels more like a long trailer or an intro to a larger, longer project, and I hope that’s exactly what it turns in to. It’s only about 15 minutes long so naturally there’s not that much time for the story line to build, and as I said I don’t really know the context, so Gears of War may have already laid that ground work for the film!
Is this film perfect?
Of course it’s not! But I wouldn’t expect it to be – Hell – half of what Hollywood churns out isn’t perfect! I definitely wouldn’t expect it for the first film he has made after teaching himself 3D VFX just a few months ago. But is it good? Now that’s a much fairer question… And the answer is an easy yes. I was genuinely impressed.
So let’s break it down – and again I’m just looking at the creative aspects… if you know more about the story, franchise and context feel free to chime in below!
The whole thing is dark, amateurish and gritty in feel… As a fan of indie horror, old school slashers and found footage movies that’s a movie feel which I love so for me those lighting levels which focus on the main character while obscuring the background, and those camera angles which some times feel like they’re fighting the actor for space add so much character and ambiance to the film. When you’re in a tunnel with him, you feel like you’re squeezed in to this claustrophobic environment with him.
I think that the camera work and dark, gritty post production is what makes this film… You can tell that Ryan has had more formal training in these fields as they feel professional. Another area where you get this feeling is the sound. Sound can be so very important to a film, with the sounds in this being well balanced and crisp, with the use of music and ambient sound effects adding to the full film experience.
If that’s what he can do with training, imagine how far he can take the 3D VFX work with a bit of support too.
Now speaking of the 3D work, again I have no idea if these are original characters or if they closely resemble the characters from Gears of War, but for a first go they’re pretty good! I couldn’t do that! Now at this point I want to just say as well that being an old school horror fan, for me there’s nothing that can even compare to physical visual effects… Having gallons of fake blood (and no, there’s no such thing as too much) or tears in latex skin can never be properly replicated digitally… Enhanced, yes… But there’s no comparison between the two. The nice thing is that after chatting with Ryan he admitted that practical effects add realism but that you are limited to the constraints of the material… With 3D VFX he’s only going to be limited by how far he can push his imagination!
There is one effect in this film which I really enjoyed and that’s the riffle flash when he’s shooting. It isn’t the most realistic effect and I think that makes it almost feel like a comic book illustration, which immediately made me think of Sin City… So it’s really not a bad thing! If that style is good enough for Bruce Willis it’ll do just fine for a Gears of War fan film. More of that please!
You can tell with ease that they are 3D VFX additions to the movie as they don’t always line up quite right and the lighting isn’t always perfect for them, but I’ve seen higher budget movies where they haven’t been that much better. I must say that it feels like even just through the duration of making this film that he got better. There are parts towards the end where creatures are interacting much better with the environment and this guy below is rendered and then lit much better! I think if he starts his next project at the level he finished this one, we can expect that 3D work to just get better and better.
Saying all of that, I do think that the 3D work which he has done is incredible… At the end of the day they are in the film, they move, they interact with the actor and the environment in a pretty realistic way and I take my hat off to him for it. His attention to detail is brilliant… I mean, just look at the poster!
If he keeps up this level of improvement we have seen through just his first project I’m excited to see what he can do!