A Barge and its Wind (2010)
Director: Keitj T. Alin
Writers: Keitj T. Alin and Frank Frederico
Starring: Douglas Arthur Hall, Perry Barbarino and Nick Larich

The Plot: Quoting almost verbatim from the opening text crawl: In the early winter months of 2011, an unmarked barge docked at the port of Cleveland, Ohio. Penned as a vessel carrying WMD’s linked to terrorism by the govt/media, the ship was in fact federal, and contained an experimental gas. The substance was a bio-chemical agent designed using nano-technology made up of electro-magnetic particles programmed to sound frequencies. In field missions, frequencies are referred to as targets. Still a prototype, the weapon has yet to be tested. The leaked gas serves as an advantage for a surveillance test. Over the course of three days the govt strategically zoned & evacuated the city knowing there would be civilians left behind or wanted felons in hiding from arrest. Civilian lives serve as a convenient field experiment. Our film shows the lives of five survivors as they try to escape this harsh chemical agent that seems to float above their heads, like tiny black clouds, and ultimately kills whoever it swarms upon.

The Review
Although Varied Celluloid has never, up until this point, featured a short film amongst its litany of film reviews, we do not hold any form of antagonism towards the short form subject. A Barge and Its Wind holds the dubious “honor” of being our very first! I was contacted by director Keitj T. Allin a month or so ago about reviewing his film, and although it took me a long time to finally get around to it, I am here to do just that. Varied Celluloid as a site may not be used to the short film format, I as a viewer have a great deal of experience with these films as I have been writing for RogueCinema for nearly as long as this website has been active. I am sent many independent short films on a monthly basis, but writing for Varied Celluloid makes this a slightly more special occasion. Thankfully, A Barge and Its Wind also turns out as one of the better shorts I have seen in a while. A strange mix of varying concepts and ideas, A Barge… is one part gore flick, one part atmospheric and claustrophobic horror film and one part arthouse-cinema. This may sound a bit uneven, but surprisingly Alin finds a way to mix his strange concoction so that everything comes out as a singular vision.
I am a great supporter of independent and short films. Covering them for such a long period of time, I have seen some intensely dramatic pieces of fiction told within very short time frames. Although interesting, within the independent film world these projects usually reside in one of two different categories: the first type being the “over-indulgent film school geek” method and the other comes in the form of “the horror-geek who wants to directly recreate his favorite movies”. Not all films fall into this stereotypical and neatly packaged little definition, but there have been enough that it has become a pattern within my monthly viewing habits. A Barge and It’s Wind is a varied mix of these two concepts and is decidedly well made despite the brew of conflicting aesthetic values.

A bawdy (and gaudy) array of low brow and high brow values, A Barge and Its Wind seems to be equal parts August Underground and arthouse existentialist examination. The introduction to the film seems to recall filmmakers such as Gaspar Noe, as it recalls a great deal of backstory and exposition through the use of very bold and rounded bubble type on the screen. After several cards that read us through this backstory, we are ultimately lead to out actual film which starts off like a spear traveling through the screen. We will soon be introduced to an intense amount of violence, and not only in the ways you expect. You see, what physical violence there is within A Barge… doesn’t actually show up until the latter part of this short, but for the moment Keitj T. Alin instead focuses on the harsh atmosphere of human emotions. The characters that we are saddled with are brutally violent towards one another, yelling expletives and presenting a very nihilistic view of humanity. The anger seeded within these characters seems like a side effect of whatever the WMD is that has been released. At least one hopes that is the case, and that these characters aren’t naturally this toxic and filled with hate. The conflict between our small group of characters at all times seethes hostility, which is then mixed with the visual quality of our film which is so drastically different that this mix becomes a conflict within itself.
In true arthouse fashion, A Barge and its Wind has a slow and brooding atmosphere to it. The first thing that comes to mind when trying to find another film to compare it to would be Lars Von Trier’s recently captivating piece of work Antichrist. A Barge… has a similarly spacey vibe to it that seems to draw out the atmosphere and slow creeping darkness that the movie delves into, with gusto. There are moments where the camera lingers on our characters while they seem to slip away from sanity, and these moments perfectly capture the darkness of what Alin is trying to evoke. That isn’t to say that this film shies away from the general “exploitation” elements of extreme horror, because that is for sure not the case. There’s an abundance of gore throughout A Barge… and it certainly attempts to push through the boundaries of good taste, as the main source of death in this film doesn’t come in the form of a simple gunshot or knifing… these characters all die from self-disembowelment. As they die, we watch as these characters wriggle around in their own intestines and gore before passing away in excruciating pain. The gore isn’t the end for the forays into bad taste either, we also have some real on-screen vomit as has become popular within underground extreme cinema. Although A Barge… is far away from the Vomit-Gore trilogy of Lucifer Valentine, it’s certainly off of the beaten path.

A Barge and its Wind is a smart short, without question. If one were so inclined, I’m sure you could delve into the project and pull out several interpretations for it but I think what is here on the surface-level is of interest enough. This is a beautiful looking short. Shot in high definition video, as is standard within the field now, the filmmakers give their movie a professional polish with some interesting post-production FX and a brilliant audio composition. The soundtrack is filled with unsettling sounds that resemble the snowstorm that waits outside of this run down building that the project takes place in. Gusts of wind and strange fragmented noises fill up the audio space, and this helps add to the wholly disturbing and claustrophobic atmosphere that the film generally reflects.

The Conclusion
While it isn’t the most spectacular short you are likely to ever see, it is an impressive start for a filmmaker who shows a tremendous amount of promise. As a whole, I think the project absolutely achieves what it sets out to do. It has issues along the way, as it can seem somewhat indecisive and unclear in what it is ultimately trying to say, but for thrills and an interesting insight into science fiction done on a limited budget – it is absolutely worth a watch. If you’re given the chance to check this one out, absolutely search it out. I give it a very high three, and on reflection it may actually achieve a 4 as I look back upon things, but for now I’m happy with that score. It’s highly recommended. Here’s the official IMDB page for more information!