Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Nicholas Bushman's Union Furnace

Cody checks out a newly released horror/thriller.

For my job at, I wrote about director Nicholas Bushman's Union Furnace, a film I had a few different reasons for being interested in: the trailer and stills looked good, it was shot in my home state of Ohio, and the lead character has the most perfect name a protagonist can have. Cody.

As played by Mike Dwyer, who co-wrote the screenplay with Bushman, this particular Cody is a small town car thief with a dangerous debt he's desperately trying to pay off. When a man catches Cody in a car he knows was stolen, it kicks off a brief car chase, something I was surprised to see in a low budget indie. The man then offers Cody a chance to make some cash...

18 minutes into the movie (Union Furnace doesn't waste time), Cody finds himself in a small, wood-paneled meeting hall where an audience of people wearing masks watch him and seven other cash-strapped strangers (including the iconic Keith David) compete in a series of seven games over the course of one long night.

While the cash prizes increase with each round, the games also get increasingly dangerous, degrading, and disgusting as they go on. With the completion of each game, one player is taken away. Between rounds, the players are kept in a waiting room with an armed guard stationed at the door, spending the downtime discussing the situation they're in. None of the contestants really know what's going on, where they are, or what happens to the people who get taken away. It seems they'll all find out eventually.

After the release of Saw in 2004, the horror and thriller genres were flooded with a stream of movies about strangers forced to play deadly games. I got tired of that concept pretty quickly, but occasionally still come across a gem with such a set-up. Union Furnace is definitely one of the better ones I've seen, and not just because it was made in Ohio and has a character named Cody.

The script by Bushman and Dwyer was solid and well-written, and Bushman brought it to the screen with style and an unnerving, uniquely quirky tone. The film looks great all around, from the imagery captured by Bushman and cinematographer Roy Rossovich to the way it was cut together by Megan McKee. That imagery is accompanied by a terrific score by Frank LoCrasto.

Dwyer and his fellow cast members did strong work bringing the characters to life as well. You can always count on Keith David to be awesome, but the movie also features impressive performances from actors I was seeing here for the first time ever, like Dwyer himself and Seth Hammond, who plays "Lion", the host of the event. I hope to see them in more movies in the future.

Compelling and troubling, Union Furnace is well worth checking out, and you can do so right now on Vimeo On Demand.

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