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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The non-linear accessibility of DVD allows filmmakers to put together discs that do more than just run one movie. Filmmaker Nick Lyon has compiled a number of his films and music videos onto one disc, named for one of his longer pieces, Hellchild and the World of Nick Lyon. These late-night psychotronic pieces were mostly made during Lyon's time spent in a German film school and they represent a pretty twisted sensibility. Sometimes his techniques are impressive but overall his vision is a little redundant and shallow.
The headline film, Hellchild, features Xenia Seeberg, the Angelina Jolie clone star of Sci-Fi channel's Lexx. The twenty-minute film tells the story of young Hilda who becomes traumatized when the family station wagon makes roadkill of her beloved pup. What follows is an uninteresting rehash of a life of drugs, booze, sex, and trailer parks. Everything is shot like a comic strip with nearly every shot consisting of someone staring directly into the camera.
The DVD also includes Candydance Chat, a somewhat disturbing trailer for an unproduced feature about a serial killer. Candydance Chat shows a real attention to atmosphere with its moody lighting and dank sets and costumes. Making the piece more effective is the technique of hand-painting a grimy texture over each frame. While the piece drags on a bit the look is quite unique.
Another short, Godbox is an attempt to be clever regarding the futility of religion. The disc also includes the short Phallocrat, whose alternate title (Frankenpenis) pretty much says it all.
Lyon's best work on the disc is The Fisherman and his Frau, a fairy tale told in appropriately broad strokes. While it, like several of the pieces here, goes on for too long, Fisherman features better characters and plotting than the other films. The story is a classic and Lyon's staging of it works well.
For the most part the video is soft and unexciting. Granted, these student films were not produced with megabucks but the image does show it's humble origins. The color is often muted and the prints are dirty. Hellchild in particular shows a good deal of compression artifacting.
The audio is okay if a little indistinct. The recording in most of the pieces was obviously done on the cheap and good sound is a difficult thing to capture. Voices are occasionally overcome with echo and location noise.
The disc itself is filled with Lyon's shorts. Also included are two music videos he directed for a group called The Farmer Boys. A trailer for some other releases by IndieDVD is also included. The biggest extra feature, however, is audio commentary by Lyon for nearly every film. Some of it is interesting, particularly in discussing production in Germany, but often he runs out of things to say.
Fans of real homegrown indie film might find Lyon's works worth watching. Most of it, however, isn't too interesting. The disc is named after Hellchild to capitalize on the fame of its star but The Fisherman and his Frau is the best film here.