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Alum Film "The Conduit" Receives Best Short Award

By Shannon C. White
On October 7, 2018

On Monday, Sept. 17, alumni John Hale visited Concord University to premiere his short film “The Conduit” in the Fine Arts Auditorium.

The 26-minute horror comedy was concluded with monstrous applause, though that should not come as a surprise. “The Conduit” has not only been shown in film festivals around the world, including festivals in Japan, Canada and across the United States, but has won a multitude of awards. These awards include “Best Monster” and “Best Humor” by the “Independent Horror Movie Awards,” and “Best Horror Comedy Film,” “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Editing” from the “Fear International Horror Genre Awards,” amongst several other nominations all around. This is not the first time John Hale has received recognition for this work either, as he also won a local Emmy for his work on the PBS children’s show “Abracadabra.”

Hale followed up the premier with a brief Q&A. When asked what he learned from his time at Concord, he responded with “Don’t procrastinate . . . I did and my quality of work in my classes suffered because of it.” He also spoke about being an amateur filmmaker saying, “It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, just go out there and make a film. You have to start somewhere.”

“The Conduit” stars Jason Turner as Andrew, an everyman with a dark secret. Whenever he goes to sleep, he opens a portal to another dimension, potentially releasing monstrous beasts. This endangers his lover, Ashley, who is played by Rachel Stefursky, and the loveable homeless man, Bobby, played by James Michael Shoeburg.

Hale’s breakthrough short film is a paradigm in what an amateur director should be able to accomplish with low-budget filmmaking. The script, while not truly original in the sense that it is an homage to classic 1980s horror movies, is well written and has an extremely astute sense of physical comedy bettered by the actors’ performances. Whether they are portraying a sympathetic alcoholic or a sleep-drained yet terrified researcher, the performers treat the roles with a geniality that adds a hint of dark playfulness throughout the film.

The backbone of this movie is not really its actors, but the practical effects that lay down the base work for this horror-comedy. The puppets succeed in being both frightening and intriguing, not only luring the viewer into a suspenseful atmosphere but hooking them into the comedic moments to follow. The audiences’ fears about what was coming from the portal quickly turn into giggles and snorts about how goofy the little demon looks or how jarring it is to see a floating alien eel beheaded.

Hale’s resounding focus in “The Conduit,” as briefly mentioned earlier, was to pay homage to the 1980s horror films that he grew up on, and this stance is far from a sham. John Hale consistently peppered the film with references to the movies that raised him, including “Gremlins,” “Ghostbusters” and “Godzilla,” along with many others. It would take multiple viewings to recognize each of the references placed carefully into the film.

Hale ended the Q&A on a cliffhanger. When asked what his next cinematic vision would be, he chuckled and took a long pause, let the silence enter and own the room, and hinted that an extraterrestrial film might be set to launch soon. While he gave no further details about his intergalactic idea, if “The Conduit” is any sign of the future of Hale’s filmography, then you should not sleep on this local director.


Update (10/07/2018): "The Conduit" has earned the award for Best WV Narrative Short at the West Virginia FILMmakers Festival.

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