Tag Archives: Bill Sage

Pitchforks Out


by Rachel Willis

An insurance investigator is pulled into a who-done-it murder mystery in writer/director Travis Burgess’s film, Hayseed.

Bored from the moment he enters the small town of Emmaus, Michigan, investigator Leo Hobbins (Bill Sage) becomes intrigued when Darlene (Ismenia Mendes) tells him the esteemed reverend’s death wasn’t an accident, nor was it suicide (Hobbins’s reason for investigating). It was murder.

From the get-go, we’re introduced to a colorful cast of characters, each with their own stories and ideas about what happened. It’s a small-town, so gossip runs rampant – some of it true, most of it false. Several characters feel like people you know. Others are awfully quirky, but it works for this comedic mystery.

Hobbins might draw comparison to some of the other big-screen detectives we’ve seen over the last several years, but Sage creates his own character – one who is charismatic in his own droll way. Though Darlene is a member of the community, her status is that of an outcast. Several question her relationship to the reverend and her influence on him. Together, our dynamic duo leads us deeper into the mystery surrounding the reverend’s untimely end.

There are several moments when you might feel like you know where the mystery is headed, but it doesn’t harm the film. Many pieces fall into place as we prod further alongside Hobbins. There aren’t any obvious red herrings, nor are any threads untied. This is a tidy package, one wrapped by a writer who knows how to draw you in and lets you attempt the solve the mystery.

While the conclusions might not be entirely obvious, there is enough on the table to leave you satisfied by what comes of the sleuthing.

With a larger cast, some characters are less well-developed than others, but no one feels underdeveloped. These are all people who have a place, and it’s easy to differentiate one from another – no small feat when working with so many characters. While our two leads are the focus of the show, there are others who stand-out, particularly Joyce Metts (Kathryn Morris) with her bitchy gossip and snide comments.

Overall, this is a film that works well. While it might be overlooked in comparison to other, recent murder mysteries, it’s not fair to draw too many comparisons. This is a movie that deserves its own consideration, and you’ll have fun if you let yourself be draw into the mystery.

Do Not Stop in Willits

Welcome to Willits

by Alex Edeburn

In their debut feature, Trevor and Tim Ryan welcome us to the backwoods of Northern California where the weed, meth and aliens are bountiful and the yokels are creepy. The town of Willits—known as the Gateway to the Redwoods—attracts a young group of hikers looking to enjoy a weekend in the woods, who only get lost and spend the night near a cabin shared by a pair of strung-out conspiracy theorists.

Brock (Bill Sage) and Peggy (Sabina Gadeki) believe aliens are after the powerful batch of crystal meth the two have been cooking and smoking. “Emerald Ice,” as the locals call it, brings on intense hallucinations, exposing the user to the nefarious creatures visiting Earth, and in some cases, inhabiting human bodies.

Brock has no other option than to stand his ground and fend off the aliens he can only see through meth-tinted glasses. This proves problematic for our unsuspecting hikers when they eventually find themselves in Brock’s crosshairs.

The comedy of the film mainly relies on lazy stoner-humor courtesy of Possum, played by Rory Culkin. A Willits local who tags along with the hikers, Possum also provides the explanation for the UFO sightings and other spooky happenings around the town. Except his “explanation” is more of a half-assed paraphrasing of an Ancient Aliens episode.

The central question of the film: Does “Emerald Ice” actually expose the hidden truth about aliens, or are these visions part of a drug-induced psychosis? The narrative attempts to answer this by setting characters on a collision course with butchery. It’s a nice idea that just doesn’t work out since scenes with lost hikers or a homicidal Brock are too short for us to feel invested.

Given the cavalcade of circumstances, the premise seems promising for a science-fiction/horror romp. But the lack of tension and careless writing cripple a film that could have been frightening and fun.

If you’re looking for something with scares and laughs, try watching conspiracy theories on YouTube before watching this movie.