(NOTE: This is a Non-Horror Film)
Producer & director Rick Schmidt has made a career out of producing unusual indie films with unusual characters in unusual situations. From his early films such as 1988: The Remake (1977) to Morgan’s Cake (1989) to his more recent Tears of Bankers (2012) and Sticky Wicket, which is currently in production, Schmidt is the poster child for the indie film-maker making feature films about whatever crosses his mind at the moment. His films mix non-fiction with fiction (sometimes with only an outline in hand) and actors with non-actors to create a film that defies easy classification. With The Higden Man (2004) Schmidt develops his strange aesthetic to deliver a film that may not hit all the right marks but does leave the viewer coming away with an unusual outlook on what is real and what is fiction.
The film centers on two conmen Marion Edwards & Charlie Parker (John Barnum and Stephen W. Gillard, respectfully) who are small time grifters trying to convince the residents of Heber Springs, Arkansas to sale their lakefront property before the government comes in to build a dam that will render the land into a small swamp. Neither one is particularly very smart but they believe that they will be successful, which is what every good conman believes. Between day to day conversations with land owners and personal lives which boarder on the pathetic audiences will find some sort of sympathy for the fools.
Like many of Schmidt’s films, real life confessions are sprinkled throughout from some of the actors and non-actors giving the film a very realistic look into the lives of the supporting (and sometimes walk on) characters. Some of these contribute to the overall film while others seem like simple filler for time but what these little vignettes into the real life of the actors does is to ground the whole film in a pseudo-real world in that all the characters inhabit. This style of film-making gives Schmidt’s films a feel and style not seen in other film-makers.
What will deter many viewers is the Dogma ‘99 style of film-making from the cinematography to the art design and everything else. The film was shot on digital video so the quality is not up to the standards of some bigger indie films as little care was taken into consideration in terms of scenes which only use available lighting and using both actors and non-actors always yields mixed results. What does carry the film is the music provided by Charlotte Taylor & Gypsy Rain and Paul Baker. The Higden Man may not be a polished film but for those looking small time Americana this may be right up your alley.
THE HIGDEN MAN – Produced/directed/shot/edited by Rick Schmidt; Written by John Barnum, Stephen W. Gillard, and Rick Schmidt; Starring John Barnum, Stephen W. Gillard; Music from Charlotte Taylor & Gypsy Rain and Paul Baker.