Episode 619 - "Tabernacle 101" (2019)


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By Joseph Dobzynski, Jr. and Joseph Dobzynski. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Hi everyone!

Welcome to Reign of Terror 2019! 31 straight days of horror movie reviews and interviews with yours truly, our team of critics, and a host of other podcasts. That’s pretty much it. I’m sure since we’ve pre-loaded this episode back in September that nothing has happened to me, or that I’ve been kidnapped, or have fled from aliens, or have been shot out of a circus cannon, or fought a clown in the sewers, or watched my daughter save me from classic movie monsters, or found myself in a world without color. That would just be silly.

Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to say how excited I am to feature today’s review of “Tabernacle 101”. Out of the blue, I received a premiere screening invitation for today’s film from Yolandi Franken, who was beginning promotion for the film and reaching out to various individuals. We tried to connect before the premiere, and then life got in the way, and then after the premiere, we got screener details. Finally got in touch with Yolandi and Colm, and we lined up today’s interview. And right before we had the interview, my glasses snapped at the bridge, making getting interview prep complete and conducting the interview a small nightmare. It was worth it, though.

We’ll have a bit of a format switch for today. Instead of the usual trailer segments, we’re going to run the whole trailer audio for “Tabernacle 101” prior to the review. Throughout the review, I’ll be including segments from our interview where appropriate. And if you want to hear the full interview, it will be available in November as another Patreon exclusive. Unless someone has accidentally made all our Patreon media free and I am unable to find my way back to our podcast headquarters.

We will be publishing weekly exclusive content going forward, which you can only get by signing up with a monthly donation at patreon.com/onemoviepunch at any level. You’ll also be invited to request one movie review from yours truly, as long as we haven’t reviewed it yet, with just a few exceptions. All support goes to paying our expenses and to help us grow with our audience.

Here’s just a taste of what you’ll be missing:

COLM: “Absolutely. We make, on the courses, an actual short film. And people love the shoot. They love all the preparation. The casting. And then the shooting, of course, for three of our days. And then it comes to the editing, and the sound post, and the music, and the coloring... A lot of people struggle with that because of two things. Number one, it’s quite technical, and it takes quite a bit of talent to do. And secondly, the time cost. You know, it just takes... we always say for every day of shooting, it’s four times the amount of time to actually do the post-production. So, totally what you’re saying is correct.”

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Here we go!




Today’s movie is “Tabernacle 101”, the science-fiction horror thriller written and directed by Colm O’Murchu, and produced by International Film Base. The film follows Frank (David Hov), a fundamentalist atheist who designs an experiment to prove no afterlife exists. However, after performing the experiment, he accidentally opens a portal through which evil beings have followed him back to control the world. Now, he must team up with Meredith (Mikeala Franco), a psychic medium, to save the world.

No spoilers.

We’re blessed to live in an era where films costing upwards of $1 billion dollars are being made, and succeeding quite well, at the box office. Practical effects now transform cityscapes for historical pictures. Special effects have never been better. And the talent pool of known mainstream and independent producers has never been greater. Content consumers dream of never-ending franchises, on multiple platforms and media, as if infinite growth were actually possible. I love those pictures, especially when they live up to the cost. And I hate those pictures a great deal when they don’t, because high-cost flops take away potential dollars from other smaller projects exploring new territory. A bigger budget doesn’t necessarily mean a better movie, but it should be judged based on the budget, kind of like an order of difficulty when judging diving.

Which is why Colm wanted to make one thing clear up front.

COLM: “It is a microbudget film, and I should say that right off the bat. We made it off an extremely low budget of $50,000 USD.”

“Tabernacle 101” is a microbudget film. Everyone should know before going into this film, so it can get a fair shake. For me, microbudget films are about two things. First, an exercise in having fun through making a film, which has been how more than a few of my favorite independent films have gotten made. And second, as a proof of concept for larger, better funded projects, the equivalent of a pilot episode for television. But in speaking with Colm, he gave me a third reason for making a film: therapy.

COLM: “But what we actually happened was that we were very close to having this film financed called ‘Absolute Freedom’, which was budgeted at $2.5 million AUS, which is about $2 million USD. And we were all set to do some casting over in Los Angeles. You know, we were looking for a names and part of the film took place in California, most of it in the Australian outback. This film had been going great guns. We had been told we’d been financed. We’d been paid money. All this sort of thing.”

COLM: “When it collapsed, when we were over doing casting in Los Angeles, and, you know, that’s a very sobering event. We’d been working for three or four years on getting that money together, so when the main financier collapsed financially, it took our movie down, and therefore, that film never got made. And we were sitting around our production office down in Sydney and saying, ‘What are we going to do?’ And we just said, ‘Look, the best cure sometimes is just to go out and make a movie.’”

I have certainly found creativity to be one of the few things that help me with managing my anxiety and depressive episodes. One Movie Punch, in many ways, has been just such a therapeutic tool. Creating something gives us meaning and purpose, especially when we live in a sometimes meaningless world. Clearly, the production team behind ‘Tabernacle 101’ were looking to find meaning in their lost opportunity with ‘Absolute Freedom’, or maybe more correctly, trying to fill the void left by that loss. That kind of loss can lead to asking a lot of big questions, which seemed to find their way into the themes of the film.

COLM: “Everyone has different perspectives, and one of the ones I found quite funny was that I had two very good friends who are what I call fundamentalist atheists. They basically preach atheism. If ever a discussion happened about religion or spiritualism or new age or psychics or mediums, they’d get so angry. And say, ‘That’s not true! You’re idiots! You have no proof!’ Blah blah blah blah.”

COLM: “As you know, the beginning of the film starts with that same sort of discussion, but it’s a radio interview happening between an atheist and someone with very strong faith. We found that very interesting how, in a way, atheism can be basically a fundamentalist belief. Like a belief, an absolute belief, that you have to convince and make other people feel small if they have beliefs. So that’s where the idea came out of. We said the premise was this: What’s the worst thing you could do to an atheist?”

I really like the story and the themes being explored in “Tabernacle 101”. I’m always up for a supernatural or horror or science fiction story, so fitting all three of them together to take a crack at the smarmy, self-assured atheist crowd sounds like fun to me. The film opening really sets the tone well, preparing the viewer thematically for the story that follows.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds an awful lot like “Flatliners”, either the original 1990 from Joel Schumacher or the 2017 remake. However, resurrection stories go all the way back to ancient myths, and scientific stories about resurrection go all the way back to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, and later, Lovecraft’s ‘The Reanimator’. Even though the film uses a similar experiment, it’s actually one that’s appeared in multiple science-fiction stories in multiple media. And the experiment is really a catalyst for solving a problem, akin to a detective or buddy cop story, rather than testing the limits of human knowledge and scientific process. It wasn’t the only theme being explored, either.

COLM: “And now, if you go back to Galileo’s time, of course, the world was flat. You know, that was the scientific and Christian belief back then. And, of course, all the time we’re finding new breakthroughs in science which would have been magic a hundred years ago, like the mobile phone and the Internet. And then today, they’re reality and fact. So, there’s so much we don’t know that happens out there, and that was one of the other themes that I was exploring there.”

I was also impressed with the casting for “Tabernacle 101”, particularly Mikeala Franco for Meredith, the psychic medium. Her character is easily my favorite thing about the film. Meredith is, ironically, the most consistent character in the film, given the often-dismissive depictions of psychic mediums in this film and in our actual world. Mikeala Franco builds off that solid base, absolutely fleshing the character out with her performance with the help of some really brilliant costuming and inspired set choices. I wasn’t the only person impressed with her, either.

COLM: “Yeah, and she’s so new. Like, I think she’s been in two short films before, but when she came into the room, just talking about her casting, when she left, we were cheering. It was, ‘We found her!’ It was really that strong. It was one of those great casting moments where you just go, ‘We found that particular character.’ The Meredith Palin psychic medium. She’s perfect. And she shot up to number one on our shortlist.”

It’s discoveries like this that always make microbudget films exciting for me to watch. No one outside the industry really appreciates the difficulty of finding quality up and coming talent. Either talent can’t get into the ginormous talent management structure that’s built around the film industry, or they can’t get recognized adrift the sea of millions of aspiring actors clamoring to be noticed online. Without taking a chance on a film like “Tabernacle 101”, some of the talent on display would never get the opportunity to do a feature-length film.

Major studios can also generally film all at once, allowing actors to stay in character, remain focused on the project, and address any issues on a daily basis as they arise. Aside from Mikeala Franco, the other characters lacked the kind of consistency you might find from a complete, connected shooting schedule. Major studios have also become addicted to the re-shoot, a luxury that isn’t available for microbudget filmmakers, generally, since they can’t normally compensate talent to clear schedules or reacquire shooting locations. Sometimes the microbudget filmmaker needs to employ more difficult shooting schedules.

COLM: “Because it was a microbudget, one of the rules of microbudget is to have a deadline, and it was I think around August, and we said we’re gonna shoot the first part of it in November of the same year. And that’s what happened. We wrote the script over six weeks, then moved very, very quickly to shoot the film over several mini-shoots. Because sometimes that’s the best way to go with microbudget. I mean, if anyone out there wants to make a microbudget, trying to shoot it all in one hit, when you don’t have a huge budget is a really hard way to do it. So, we split it up into seven mini-shoots, that were about five or six weeks apart, and each were five days long. And that’s how we got the film shot.”

It’s not the only flaw in “Tabernacle 101”. The special effects are probably the biggest flaw with the film. Special effects are a risky proposition for any microbudget film, despite the incredible advancements in the available tools. When it comes to special effects, you get what you pay for, and in this case, the viewer doesn’t get much that blends in well with the rest of the picture. Retro science-fiction used strong stories to get around the lack of special effects, and sometimes modern science-fiction gets around bad stories by using special effects, but in the case of “Tabernacle 101”, we have an above average story being torpedoed by the special effects, most of which could and should have been written out of the film. Perhaps one day special effects tools will be easy and cheap enough that adding well-blended, special effects on a microbudget becomes possible. We’re definitely not there yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tools available for the aspiring filmmaker.

COLM: “I’ll just throw a plug out for DaVinci Editing Systems. We just switched to that from Adobe Premier Pro, and DaVinci is free, believe it or not. So, we’re getting all our current course participants to use it because it’s free. They’re not stuck with this $300 bill a year from Adobe. And you get to have a great editing system, great coloring, and fair light/sound posting on it. Magnificent for those people who are on low budgets. And it’s becoming, like, one of those favorite editing software that I know a lot of indie filmmakers are using. I won’t mention the name of another podcast, because it’s your podcast, but he swears by it, and he’s a very experienced post-production person, so we just made the jump in the last month. And it’s absolutely fabulous.”

“Tabernacle 101” is a microbudget science-fiction thriller that explores the relationship between faith and science, and their shared relationship to technology. The film boasts a great story and an excellent performance from Mikeala Franco, but also bites off way more than it can chew in the special effects department, which detracts from the overall experience. Microbudget fans, and science-fiction fans who love philosophical questions, should definitely check out this film.

Rotten Tomatoes: NR

Metacritic: NR

One Movie Punch: 5.3/10

“Tabernacle 101” is not rated and is available for rent or purchase at Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and coming soon to Apple TV.

A huge thanks to Yolandi Franken and Colm O’Murchu for lining up our interview. Be sure to check out their work at internationalfilmbase.com. And be sure to check out the full interview on Patreon on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019, which will be available publicly for a limited time.

See you tomorrow!

I hope?

509 episodes