Family Snapshot is probably not a film that you would have expected from Chris Woods. For those unfamiliar with him, he’s the guy behind The Sleaze Box and director of enjoyably sleazy films like Chaos A.D., Taste Me: Death-Scort Service Part 3 and Amerikan Holokaust. But, just as his frequent collaborator Sean Donohue made The Hart-Break Killer, Woods has decided to make a more serious film. Can he successfully make the transition, or should this family snapshot be consigned to a dusty photo album?
Co-written by Woods and the film’s leads, Bob Glazier (Zed’s Dead, Ouija Mummy) and Eight The Chosen One (Morbid Stories, American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore) Family Snapshot is the story of Jonathan Oswald Jr. (Eight The Chosen One) who’s out of jail and trying to get on the right track. It isn’t easy, he’s broke, stressed out and finding himself conflicted in his beliefs.
The one thing he doesn’t need is “Big Oz”, his father Jonathan Oswald Sr. (Bob Glazier), being released from prison into his care. A violent white supremacist he’s just done hard time for armed robbery and he’s already planning to pick up where he left off. And he wants his son to join him.
Eight The Chosen One delivers an excellent performance in the central role. He’s a man at a crossroads and neither of those roads looks like an easy one to travel. On the one hand, he’s making progress, thanks to his councillor Lewis (Nico Hicks) who’s African American And he’s finding himself attracted to Sasha (Daniela Salazar) who isn’t white either. But he still has a picture of Hitler and a confederate flag on the wall of his apartment.
Glazier is good as Oswald Sr. but it’s a much easier role to play. He mostly has to be convincingly scummy while banging hookers, spewing racial slurs and plotting one last act of violence. In some ways, it’s a straight version of the sleazy characters he’s played in so many other films. And thankfully he plays it straight, avoiding the temptation to ham it up a bit.
Ninety percent of Family Snapshot rests on those two, and the interactions between their characters. One trying to leave his past behind and move on with his life, while the other tries his best to drag him back down. It’s a familiar plot device, but it’s well used here and the performances really help to sell it.
Apart from the leads, there are several faces that will be familiar to fans of indie horror among the supporting characters. Those include Joe Makowski (The Hart-Break Killer), Joel D. Wynkoop (Rot, Dreaming Purple Neon) and Cayt Feinics (WrestleMassacre, Naked Cannibal Campers).
Woods made an interesting choice shooting Family Snapshot mostly in black and white. It does look good and, along with the film’s subject material and downbeat tone put me in mind of some of the dramas of the late 60s and early 70s. Granted it’s a high contrast, much nicer looking black and white than the grainy look many of those shot on 16mm films achieved, but the effect is there.
At just under two and a quarter hours, Family Snapshot does run too long. It could easily lose fifteen minutes and probably a bit more. Scenes that go on too long and others that really don’t advance the plot just drag things out and slow the film down. The film is already hard to sit through in places for the right reasons. it doesn’t need any of the wrong ones.
If you like your drama on the bleak side Family Snapshot should be one to look for. It’s currently playing festivals ahead of a general release. You can check the film’s Facebook page for updates on where and when it will be playing.