Saturday, August 13, 2016

HSFF ’16: Legend of Dark Rider

In a fantasy world roughly based on Medieval Europe, the monarch and his men-at-arms expect to hold a monopoly on murder. Therefore, when a mythic savage continues to kill with impunity, it is rather bad for business. A detachment of the king’s guard has been dispatched to hunt down the half beast-half outlaw, but winter is coming and its coming for them in Titus Paar’s massively Grimdark Legend of Dark Rider (trailer here), which screens during 2016 HollyShorts Film Festival.

The Captain of the Guard clearly resents his posting to the snowy provinces to track what he assumes is a Medieval analog equivalent of an urban legend, so he intends to take out his frustration on the locals, starting with an unfortunate barmaid. However, the mysterious and hirsute (even by the local Nordic standards) Vlademir has a story that will stop the abusive soldier dead in his tracks.

It turns out Vlademir might be the person to survive an encounter with the Dark Rider. Admittedly, it was more of a distant gander, but that is more than anyone else can say, especially the captain. After all, his boorish behavior and disrespectful talk about the Rider is bound to generate some massively bad karma.

Legend is obviously a proof of concept short, but it is an insidiously effective one. Paar sets the hook quickly, while pulling off some remarkably fast and economical world building. Granted, we are probably expected to use Game of Thrones as an unofficial foundation, but most viewers will be immediately intrigued by the Rider legend and quickly primed to root for a revolution against the oppressive social order, even before the revelatory ending.

By now, there is a huge potential audience out there for a property like Dark Rider. Paar keeps it tight and tense, while the rugged cast look and sound perfect growling and fighting together, especially the exceptionally grizzled Ralf Beck as Vlademir. He can certainly tell a tale. If Paar, can maintain the tone and energy, the world of Dark Rider could be the first original fantasy franchise to rival those based on best-selling novels. Recommended for fans of GRRM, Joe Abercrombie, and Steven Erikson, Legend of Dark Rider screens this Monday (8/15) as part of the “Sci-Fi/Fantasy” block at this year’s HollyShorts.