Director: Vanessa Ionta Wright
Starring: Brian Ashton Smith, Anne-Marie Kennedy, Kermit Rolison, Jan Nelson
By way of introduction, Rainy Season was made as part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program. For those who haven’t heard of this, Stephen King provides filmmakers the opportunity to adapt his work for a dollar, albeit with caveats – these films can only be shown as part of film festivals and no money can be made from them. There are some other narrow times the film can be viewed and one of those is for review purposes. These are meant to help upstart filmmakers adapt a known work for a very low cost thereby allowing artists to hone their skills.
The actual short story, Rainy Season, is located in Mr. King’s compilation Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The plot, in short, is every seven years carnivorous toads rain down on the small town of Willow, Maine. Even to the trained professional, adapting a story involving carnivorous toads and a stream of them coming through a coal shoot into a house presents real problems, but when you’re just starting out and you only have a limited budget this presents a real challenge.
Directed by Vanessa Ionta Wright, who also wrote the screenplay adaptation, Rainy Season stars Brian Ashton Smith and Anne-Marie Kennedy as the two main characters as John and Elsie Graham. Kermit Rolison plays the shopkeeper Henry Eden and rounding out the main cast is Jan Nelson as Laura Stanton. First off, Smith and Kennedy deliver great performances as the Grahams, conveying a hint of marital trouble as well as confusion as to why Eden and Stanton offer them a room out of town. Their dismissal of local rainy season and shock when they realize it is true is so well done. Rolison and Nelson both turn in a great showing as the locals, their regional accents not overdone but they are there just to remind everyone they are locals and maybe you should heed their advice.
I don’t want to spoil the rain of toads sequence but let’s just say that Wright handled this so well it serves as an example to filmmakers that sometimes less is more. Her creative approach to these sequences does not feel sacrificed and her deliberate decision to stimulate your senses rather than just your eyes pays off. Along with this is the soundtrack which plays an important atmospheric role. Handled by Ross Childress (Collective Soul), the music really does capture the necessary feelings and soul of the film.
This is an amazing short. It shows us you can reach out and tease your audience’s senses rather than hitting them over the head with gore to convey a sense of horror, and a full-length movie from Ms. Wright would be most welcome. She has established her talent with Rainy Season and the horror genre would benefit greatly from her vision and style. I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next!