When a young American girl called Audrey (Dana Jamison) arrives in the Philippines to hunt down the mythical kingdom of the Diwata (a race of Gods who weave stories that manipulate the fates of man) she enlists the help of failed screenwriter Nick (Nick Medina) and his friends Hazel (Genelyka Castin) and her boyfriend Ray (Leonard Olaer) as impromptu travel guides and travelling companions.

Their adventures take them across the island, through shanty towns and into perilous jungle, and en route they attract the attention of bandits who believe Audrey knows the whereabouts of the Diwata’s treasure: Audrey and Hazel are abducted at gunpoint and then later, after managing a risky escape, they are pursued by a motorcycle gang who try to hijack the RV the quartet are using as transport. But this is only the beginning of their problems – as they approach the land of the Diwata, and as an awkward romance slowly blossoms between Audrey and Nick, violent death is not far behind. Even if Audrey finds the Diwata, it may very well cost her not just her life but also her soul.

‘Faraway’ is written and directed by Randal Kamradt and co-produced by Maria Olsen under the auspices of her production company MOnsterworks66. Maria and MOnsterworks will be familiar names to regular ‘Movie Ramblings’ readers – we interviewed Maria last year when her movies ‘Another’ and ‘Starry Eyes’ premiered at London’s Frightfest and a few months ago we reviewed MOnsterworks’ ‘Way Down in Chinatown’, a fascinating horror – sci-fi – noir that was not only a genuine breath of cinematic fresh air (and deserves more attention than it received) but also established MOnsterworks as one of the most exciting and innovative independents to arrive on the scene in a very long time.

At first glance, ‘Faraway’ is something of a departure from MOnsterworks’ usual fare. It is, essentially, a road-movie fairy tale that occasionally plays like a bare-bones version of ‘Romancing the Stone’. Randal Kamradt uses the Philippines well – the film was shot entirely on location and, for the most part, his exterior set-ups never look less than fantastic (check out all the lush jungle greenery, as well as some of the impressively lit night scenes) – and he has obviously got plenty of ambition (how many directors working with a micro-budget would attempt to stage a motorcycle pursuit through a busy shopping street, or a roof-top fight on a moving vehicle?) but unfortunately, for all Kamradt’s passion and great ideas, those sequences don’t really work simply because the lack of budget lets him down, he doesn’t have the camera-coverage or the stunt expertise required to properly bring those moments to life. It’s a pity because he obviously has a great sense of how an action sequence should be put together, and he knows how to ramp up the dilemma for his central characters, but maybe if he had tried to do less with his limited budget and instead found a way to tell his story in a smaller more intimate style the film as a whole would have worked better. As it stands there are moments when the film feels a little meandering, and the relationships between the four central characters fail to convince, i.e.: when Audrey first meets Nick he is camp and boorish and absolutely refuses to sign up to her adventure but then, just as suddenly, he changes his mind and all his forgiven (yes, Kamradt explains this change of heart in his dialogue (and cleverly makes Nick’s frequent ‘turnarounds’ a rather playful character trait) but the connection between Nick and Audrey never feels particularly satisfying). Likewise, the on-again off-again relationship between Hazel and Ray (at one point early in the film, a drunk Hazel tries to encourage a stranger to beat Ray up for seemingly no reason) isn’t convincing either. And while we’re on the subject of characters that don’t convince, the bandits are so inept that, despite all Kamradt’s attempts to convince us otherwise, they never seriously come off as a threat.

In fact, the whole tone of ‘Faraway’ is problematic: the first two-thirds of the movie have an almost ‘family film’ feel, but then events take an adult and slightly-graphic turn when a bungled rape attempt on Audrey results in the attacker being killed and then, a short while afterwards, one of the main characters is murdered in a way that is quite jarringly brutal. Also, in the fantasy scene towards the end of the story, when Audrey – in the presence of the King of the Diwata – discovers her mouth has been enclosed by a kind of fleshy seal, she does something rather nasty to herself in order to be able to scream for help. Don’t misunderstand me, all those scenes are very well handled (although the rape could have used some more cohesive editing) but they don’t fit easily with the majority of the story that came before. True, when the bandits appear towards the end of the first act they are wielding guns and knives and (unconvincingly) beat Nick up badly enough for his nose to bleed, but the bandits are so ridiculous that the violence seems almost cartoon-like (as is the scene when Ray rescues Nick from the bandits a little while later and, during a fight in a kitchen, seemingly knocks a villain unconscious simply by running around a table.) If ‘Faraway’ had started dark, the events of the final third wouldn’t seem as disturbing as they are but I for one found the sudden change-up from what was ostensibly a PG-13 fairy tale to a final act that incorporated more realistic violence and at least one moment of body horror a little disquieting (which, for a hard-bitten horror fan like me – and especially considering that Kamradt actually shows very little in the way of blood and gore – still has me puzzled.)

Having said all that, ‘Faraway’ is definitely a film that fans of intelligently-made character driven fantasy cinema should make an effort to see. Randal Kamradt is a director whose style suggests another M Night Shyamalan in-the-making, and if he can inject his screenwriting with the same bravado and originality he exhibits as a director (and if he can secure a slightly bigger budget) I predict we’ll see some great work from him in the future. ‘Faraway’ won’t appeal to everybody – it is, in many respects, a deeply flawed movie – but it is still a movie with more heart and ambition than most of the studio blockbusters you’ll squirm wearily through this summer. And I can’t end the review without giving special mention to composer Benedict Nichols’s fabulous musical score, which is one of the best soundtracks for a small independent film that I have heard in a very long time.

To date, ‘Faraway’ has been appearing at genre festivals around the world and, for US readers, is currently available to download on iTunes and Amazon Prime. As soon as we hear of a UK release date we’ll let you know. Also, for hardcore Maria Olsen fans, check out this month’s ‘Starburst’ magazine for an all-new in-depth interview with the fabulous Miss O and a review of MOnsterworks’ latest break-out hit ‘Live-In Fear’.

Movie Review: Faraway
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About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white