Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994) Review

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Some Folks call it a 25 minute Audition Reel

Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade (1994): 5 out of 10: A curiosity piece for Sling Blade fans, this short is the opening act of the original film done in black and white with Molly Ringwald as the reporter and some nebbish actor as a mental health director.

Everything else is the same, right down to J. T. Walsh’s rape stories. The only genuine surprise is how quickly it is over. (25 brisk minutes) Unlike other viewers, I really didn’t notice a menacing nuance in this version. It really seemed almost note for note. One might rightly wonder why this short simply didn’t appear as an extra on the Sling Blade proper disc. The included behind-the-scenes docs explain that pretty clearly.

The Extras

The first doc is of little interest except to see J.T. Walsh chain smoke and hear director George Hickenlooper expound on how he likes short films and how European it is to make one. The second doc proves all that art for art’s sake stuff a lie.

Hickenlooper shows very lengthy clips from three of his features. The first Heart of Darkness a Filmmakers Apocalypse looked interesting. Even more interesting is how Hickenlooper got a directing credit even though Coppola’s wife shot all the footage. The other two features The Killing Box (Ghost Brigade) and The Low Life look awful. The Killing Box is a vampire civil war hybrid from which Hickenlooper removed the vampires and The Low Life seems like one of those self conscious auto-biographical films that comes out of Project GreenLight.

The real treat is hearing Hickenlooper completely trash his former friend Billy Bob Thorton basically describing him as an unstable maniac. Since Thorton went on to fame and fortune and Oscar gold. (Hickenlooper even attacks Billy Bob’s eligibility to win an Oscar for best adapted screenplay) and Hickenlooper was not asked to direct. One can only assume a little payback was in order during this “record straightening”.

Even funnier Hickenlooper accuses Thorton of trying to turn the short into an audition reel (Why else would you do a short?) while in the next breath explaining he was going to use it to shop a feature film. (And all of this in one of the most self centered promotional docs I have ever seen. It’s like a childhood film retrospective at a sweet sixteen party.) The whole mess is imminently skippable except for the morbidly curious.

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