Cast of Ferocious at CIFF red carpetSaskatoon just lost its film innocence. And it was not pretty.

(View the trailer here.)

The picturesque, prairie city is the setting for Calgary filmmaker Robert Cuffley’s latest psychological thriller, and “Tiny Town” as it is referred to in the film, never looked so dark and seedy.

Most of the movie takes place in a creepy club known as “Shakers” that looks like any other outdated bar in any Canadian city — you can almost smell the stale beer and urine. The bar has been closed for a while and is about to open. But the question is, what has this neon-lit, disco-balled bar and its greasy staff got to do with television star Leigh Parrish, who has made it big despite her humble roots in Saskatoon serving homeless folks at a local soup kitchen?

Not surprisingly, Parrish is not all that she appears–or as she has been “branded” by her adrenaline-charged manager Callum (played by Dustin Milligan) who fusses over her career and controls her every move. As she slips away to take care of some “business” in her home town relating to extortion and yes, a sex tape, the stage is set for a wild ride.

Amanda Crew, as Parrish, is soon embroiled in a battle of wits with the most disturbing psychopath since Hannibal Lecter, played astonishingly well by Kim Coates. This is a guy that I would not want to meet in a dark alley! Coates plays Sal (as well as Sal’s twin brother who is equally sinister) who is either just enjoying the thrill of psychologically torturing everyone or is truly obsessed with Parrish, thinking perhaps the two make a good match after watching her sex tape over and over again on a playback loop. Come to think of it–it’s probably both!

Throw in a quirky and deadpan funny Katie Boland as Parrish’s biggest fan, Tess, and a hapless bartender (Saskatoon-er Michael Eklund as Eric) for an amazing Canuck cast that’ll make you proud to be Canadian.

Cuffley and all of the main cast members were at the Calgary International Film Festival’s (CIFF) local premiere (opened first in Montreal), some of them seeing the final movie for the first time. They appeared pleased with the outcome and it was a virtual “love fest” during the question and answer session after the screening.

The most memorable scene for me involved Sal in a bizarre dance sequence that was apparently improvised. It’ll make you laugh nervously as the hair stands up on the back of your neck. Crew’s portrayal of Parrish is stoic and shriek-free, as Cuffley explained he didn’t want another weak female character waiting to be rescued by the male protagonist (on behalf of women everywhere, thank you!). The result is a skilled performance by Crew, with her facial expressions and eyes telling most of the story.

The film is not perfect, about halfway through it feels a little like the director is perhaps too fascinated by his actors and dragging out the tension a little longer than necessary to get the point across. But, minor plot-dragging aside, the final version of this movie will leave you wanting to see more of Cuffley’s work and knowing this ensemble of actors have promising careers ahead of them if they continue to deliver great performances like this.

Oh, and did I mention they shot the whole thing in 18 days on a shoestring budget?

The film only had one showing at CIFF but watch for its release in theatres soon.

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