RECONCILED THROUGH THE CHRIST
Frankie lies in a coma. Each day his brother Paul makes the journey to the hospital to read scripture verses to the vegetative lout in hopes of saving Frankie's sadistic soul. Because, as one character notes, even Jeffery Dahmer accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and earned a seat at the Lord's feet. Accepting Christ into their hearts is something everyone in Frankie's family has done except for Frankie. The man just doesn't believe.
Written, Directed, Edited, and Videotaped by Tim Ritter
Frankie - Ron Blair
Davey - Prof. Tread
Paul - Andrew Willett
Elise - Kathleen Ritter
Jesus the Christ - Jay Ingle
Frankie is a bad man, and he's a hair's width away from becoming an evil man. He's an accountant who cooks the books. He's a husband with a wandering penis. He's a misogynist with a growing eye for murder. While he's never taken a life, Frankie's story starts with him on his way to kill his wife. The only thing the poor woman ever did to Frankie was leave his drunken, adulterous, and abusive ass, and that's by far the smartest thing the woman could have ever done. Franklin is everything the devil is looking for in a soul to push past the point of no return.
The battle for Frankie's salvation is the primary plot in Tim Ritter's newest feature, RECONCILED THROUGH THE CHRIST. Ritter's past efforts have gained notoriety over the years for their sleazy subject matter and lingering camera. Whether it be the graphic sex of CREEP or the extreme gore of TRUTH OR DARE and KILLING SPREE, Ritter's movies have always reveled in their gratuitous excess like a pig in a brand new mudhole...or a kid in a candy store. Tim loves horror, he loves everything about the genre, and he goes out of his way to deliver to this fans exactly what it was that made himself a fan back in the 1970's and 80's.
To his credit, Ritter's movies have always been about something deeper and more meaningful than just the gore and skin. He reaches beyond the surfaces and fuses subtext to his story and illuminates his take on societal issues. TRUTH OR DARE examined attitudes regarding federal funding of mental healthcare. TRUTH OR DARE 3 examined the exploitation and deification of mass murderers by the media. CREEP explored the corruption and subsequent de-evolution of sexual politics among the family unit. DIRTY COP, NO DONUT follows a law enforcement official in a pseudo-documentary style to reveal the American people's need for public and personal acceptance as well as our quest to achieve that ever elusive 15 minutes of fame.
RECONCILED is Tim's most personal film to date. Since making many of those previously mentioned underground classics, Tim has converted to Christianity, and can often be found defending his views to an online horror community that's majoritively un-accepting. Tim credits one such discussion that took place here, in the B-Independent.com forums, as the inspiration for the story. If Frankie is Tim's theological opposite, then Tim represents himself on screen in the form of Davey, a modern cowboy-like angel making his way from one wayward soul to the next. Davey is sent by God to intervene in Frankie's plans to murder his wife all the while spouting lines eerily familiar to Tim's own words.
RECONCILED works well just on Ritter's passionate screenplay alone, but it's Ron Blair as Frankie that truly gives the movie life and drives the sucker home. Blair plays the character with despicable glee and menace. It would be easy for an actor to cross the line into ham-handed scene-chewery, but Blair is subdued and relaxed when delivering the often heavy-handed dialogue. Lines such as "I'm going to carve you like a Jack-O-Lantern" could have gone a thousand different ways, most of which leaving the audience in laughter, but it's Blair's slow, drawn-out speech cadence that tells us he means what he says, and it's that conviction that sent chills up this reviewer's spine.
Ritter's fans will find more to enjoy than just Ron Blair's exceptional acting. Ritter's recent foray into literary fiction lends a hand at helping bring about characterization, among other things. Even the secondary roles are clear and defined. Ritter says he wrote the film in only one draft, and yet he's able to write characters who are true to themselves and never betray their situation merely because plot advancement dictates so. There's an actual arc for characters to follow and grow; they deal with their own personal demons. The set-ups might be stereotypical, but the people in those situations feel real, and the movie feels all the more polished because of it. Even with only a single draft written, RECONCILED is the best screenplay Ritter has ever written. The characters live, breath, and posses a profound sense of self.
Even the technical aspects of RECONCILED are a vast improvement over past work. The cinema verite approach gives that added layer of desired realism, but it isn't as shaky as past Ritter productions. Instead of simply burning tape and capturing footage, the movements have a purpose, the shots are actually composed and geometrically framed in a highly stylized fashion. There are certain scenes that are shot so well and edited so tightly with such a high variety of shot coverage that at times I doubted I was watching a Tim Ritter production. Pay particular attention to the hitchhiking scenes and you'll see what I mean. It's taken Tim 20 years to make a movie this polished. I guess practice makes perfect.
When Ritter started production on RECONCILED, he let it slip that the movie might be his swan song from making movies, or at the very least the start of a lengthy vacation. A recent e-mail exchange with Ritter reveals that he has the itch again.....Good! The man is now at a point in his career where he's able to make work that's both profound and profoundly representative of himself. In film school we would have given Ritter the label of "auteur," a director who makes work highly reflective of his own personal views. It's a label Hitchcock was bestowed and a number of Ritter's heroes such as John Carpenter and Wes Craven. Ritter is one of the few true auteurs working in microcinema, and it's a godsend that we have him. RECONCILED isn't a movie for everyone, and horror fans will probably be disappointed, but fans of Tim, the man, will be blown away that he could make a film this passionate and heartfelt. I wasn't. I knew he had it in him. He just had to trust in God to do so.
The 2005 dvd release of of RECONCILED through Sub Rosa Studios contains a commentary track by Ritter where he expounds upon his religious bliefs and how they affected the making up the movie. There's also a short feature on the digital effects of the movie.