I just received Her Name Was Christa — the first film that James L Edwards has directed. I know Edwards as part of what I call the Ohio Gang — people who have worked with JR Bookwalter over the years. He played three parts, for example, in Ozone. But the two things I think are most remarkable about him is his performance in Matthew Jason Walsh’s Bloodletting and his excellent script for Bookwalter’s Polymorph.
No Ordinary Film
My primary interest in psychotronic film is the desire to see things I’ve never seen before — the kinds of things that just can’t (or at least shouldn’t) attract big money. Her Name Was Christa delivers on this in spades.
The first 80 minutes of the film is relatively straightforward with an awkward middle-aged man becoming more and more involved with a prostitute. The last 40 minutes of the film makes you rethink just how reliable the narrator had been throughout.
(There is one clue in the last couple of minutes that indicates that at least the primary relationship story was real. Other parts of it are established as delusions. It’s a nice foggy mix and I think it’s best not to over-think it.)
The acting in the film is excellent. This is probably Edwards’ best performance. Newcomer Shianne Daye is shockingly good as Christa. She manages to convince me that this relationship could exist.
The whole supporting case was good too. Drew Fortier pulled off the difficult feat of being the obnoxious yet good-hearted friend. And Rick Jermain played several of my past bosses perfectly! Also: JR Bookwalter has a cameo.
Edwards directs like a writer. But I don’t mean that as an insult at all. He, cinematographer (and cameraman?) Gordon Cameron, and art director David Lange created a beautiful film with realistic but uncluttered sets, effective lighting, well-chosen shots with effective camera moves. But nothing is gratuitous. Every shot is natural with a focus on character point-of-view.
In addition, the special make-up effects by Alan Tuskes were transcendent — enough to make any old psychotronic fan believe in a loving God.
I’m divided on the editing. I thought the deliberate pacing worked great and set up what was for me a very emotional denouement. But I also think that the film could be cut down by a half-hour and that might find it’s own audience.
Of particular note is that Her Name Was Christa is fearless. Although much of it is very funny, it is never camp. James L Edwards presents this tragic and disturbing story with an unfaltering heart. There is not a hit of irony here — something both unusual and badly needed in this moment of “edgy” popular art.
At the same time, it’s clear why this film is not playing at the multiplex. It demands of the viewer. Some of the scenes are hard to watch. I don’t mean they are disgusting. (Since when was that a problem for me?) I mean they were sad. Her Name Was Christa is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking.
The film comes with two discs: a Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray has the film along with a commentary track with James L Edwards. The DVD has the same as well as these extras:
- Indiegogo campaign video
- A video ad looking for someone to play Christa
- Rehearsal footage
- Original (30+ minute) video of the institutional sections
- One deleted scene and two extended scenes
- An on-set marriage proposal from Drew Fortier to one of the extras
- The “haunted attraction” scene with different music
- The full video projected at Stephen’s work.
It’s a nice package. It’s a bit weird that the extras are not on the Blu-ray, but I’m not complaining. I recommend getting the film and since it isn’t available on Amazon, I get no associates fee, so I must be honest. You can get it at Makeflix either in the 2-disc package with the Blu-ray or just on DVD for $5.00 less.
Image taken from the Her Name Is Christa Facebook page.