Directed by Matt Green Starring Chad Fuller Marty Brown Jennifer Stokes Tim Emery Alonzo Pennington Andy Grace Bobby Bileyu Bobby Linville Lori Beth Fooshee James Stokes Danny Lee Ramsey Kathy Simpson West Cody Boyd Short Film Review by Evie Brudenall
Western films have largely fallen out of fashion since the 1960s when the genre saw a box-office depreciation, signalling a decreasing level of interest from the movie-going audience. However, over the past few years, a notable resurgence in the genre can be seen, with the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit a storming success and the even more recent Slow West and Bone Tamahawk proving to be hits amongst critics. The creative team behind The Switch seem to be taking full advantage of this piqued interest, whilst simultaneously infusing elements from another popular genre: sci-fi. Infamously, this amalgamation has been attempted before with Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens, and the result was somewhat disastrous. Would The Switch fall into the category of celebrated Westerns or fall victim to its quirky combination of film classifications?
A quiet town in the West are disturbed when a mysterious man enters their perimeters with an unidentified box. The community so stuck in its comfortable ways are perturbed by the arrival and the contents of the box, but its function is more peculiar than anyone could imagine.
The Switch begins with an archetypal Western opening; a lone man and his horse stride through town, attracting glances of suspicion and quizzical remarks from residents. The filmmakers are acutely aware of the conventions of the Western genre, and they utilise them to great effect. Carefully constructed creative decisions have been made to fully immerse the audience in the genre; including everything from the use of language, the production design, the costumes and the stereotypical accents. Fuller and Green Productions evidently have their finger on the Western pulse and pay respectable homage to it whilst also arguably displaying helpful dashings of parody.
Through sweeping camera movements and intentionally obscure positioning to prevent fully exposing the mystery stranger’s face, the rouse of secrecy is successfully maintained throughout and provoke us to ask questions of our own, such as; who is this man? What’s in the box? What is his purpose in this sedate community?
Unfortunately, those questions are never really answered. Yes, we do discover the function of the box and its provides some visually interesting moments, as do the amusing reactions the community have to the box’s effects. But the reason and motivation for affixing the box is ambiguous and not at all defined. This elusiveness is apt in regards to the nature of the box’s keeper, but the general rule is that the filmmakers must have answers to their posed enigmas, even if they choose not to share them with the audience. However, the impression is given that they don’t even know their own solutions. The attempt at sci-fi also feels a little half-hearted, as the box could have had significantly more outlandish properties than it ultimately bestowed.
Undeniably competently made with commendable attention to detail and reverence for the Western, Fuller and Green’s The Switch ends up neglecting one half of its hybrid genre, creating an uncommitted but admirable short film.