Mike Tack is one of the busiest indie horror film makers in the UK. He constantly pushes himself to the limits in getting the best value out of a very limited budget. His latest, Red Wolf Pines, takes that idea and runs hard with it.
Last year, his short Two Careful Owners was selected to play at the Mile High Film Festival in Denver, Colorado. Many of us would see the trip across the big pond as an excuse for a holiday and some networking. Mike used it as the base for Red Wolf Pines. With a DSLR and a few American contacts, he put together the elements for a very Tack-style Western.
It follows three hard-ass cowboys, Corbin, Zeke and Jesse as they track and kill a wanted man. But that man has a brother, the fearsome Kane. Kane has heard of his brother’s death, and he’s looking to settle the score. A simple tale, one that’s been told and retold. But we’re in Tackland now. There’s a vicious twist to this story. For, you see, Kane has a secret. Which is why it’s not sensible for him to find you after dark…
With a clever mix of footage shot in two very different locations–the soaring mountains of Colorado and the dark woodlands of, erm, St. Albans, Red Wolf Pines is a very different prospect to Mike’s earlier work. It looks and feels a lot more expensive. Despite this, though, it shares some very Tackian DNA with films like One Careful Owner. Revenge is, as ever, at the heart of the oeuvre, as bullies get their come-uppence at the hands of a much more powerful adversary. These characters are, for the most part, set up for the killing to start in the final act. Tack sees no need to make them sympathetic. The person with which you’re supposed to sympathise is the one they killed in the first three minutes.
This clean, pure narrative style is at the heart of what makes Tack’s tales so approachable. You know what you’re going to get. The fun bit is seeing how it’s going to happen and the gore gags that Mike and his co-conspirator, Tim Richards are going to show us along the way.
It’s nice to see Tack regular Keith Eyles get to do his best Eastwood squint as Kane, and his cast make generally believable gun-slingers (helped with a little judicious ADR from some American friends). A hat tip too for a cameo from our very own Leading Man, Clive Ashenden.
The generous use of Colorado footage, with authentic steam trains and a mounted sheriff in the mix, gives Red Wolf Pines an epic, widescreen feel. Up to now, Tack’s take on urban horror has been claustrophobic, with his characters penned in by iron gates and barbed wire. Even the semi-pastoral of The Allotment feels trapped in toxic suburbia–you can hear the traffic noise. In Red Wolf Pines, Mike is clearly having fun, and the opened frame and Western trappings makes a real difference.
Mike tells me that he’s working hard on a feature script that takes his urban horror pre-occupations in a very different direction. Which means that Red Wolf Pines could be the last short we see from him in a while. A bit of a shame, but then it’s been great to follow a film-maker from his earliest shorts shot on an iPhone to this confident, playful mini-saga. It’s going to be fascinating to see what comes next.