It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts down when it comes to Empire of Dirt. I liked it, don’t get me wrong there, but I struggle to wrap my mind around director Adam Mason’s vision of Hell because it was so… good. I love projects like this; where creative and original minds step outside the box and come up with something truly frightening and unsettling while also sustaining a magical feeling of curiosity. Empire of Dirt definitely gave me thoughts of, “What the fuck am I watching,” while also making me think, “I want to know more. I need to know more.” Some of the answers are in place, but the script written by Paul Sloan leaves a lot to the imagination. My only hope for this short film is that it’s adapted into a feature length project one day.
I get as far as “Manila – 1997” before Adam Mason (also cinematographer and editor) and Paul Sloan blow my mind with incredible feats of movie magic not often seen in short films. I’m talking about impeccably performed fight/stunt sequences and trippy atmosphere and quasi-cop-drama highlighted by potentially award winning acting chops, sleek and professional effects, and a story that literally bent my mind. Empire of Dirt stars Paul Sloan (“Vigilante Diaries”), Mark Steger (“Stranger Things”), Lillian Solange and V Nixie. It was produced by Mike Hatton, Julia Sandberg Hansson, Ben Foreman and Robert Byrd. The story follows one man, faced with impossible odds as he navigates a series of rooms in a warehouse, looking for the answers and the woman he so desperately seeks. However, he shouldn’t be so quick to end his journey, as the brutal conclusion to one quest opens the door to one Hell of an ultimatum.
Empire of Dirty quite literally starts things off with a flash and a bang, and the action and suspense is sky high from there. The suspense is the most palpable as the viewer will crave the answers more than the man fighting the guards. Why is he there? Why is he shooting everyone? Why is this the path he needs to take? Something has obviously gone wrong in his life and he has no choice but to kick ass and take names. We get some shots of female nudity interlaced with the beginning of the horror story here and I have to say I found myself wondering if a real supernatural occurrence was taking place or if our action star was suffering from a prolonged hallucination or mental illness. The story takes another turn and that’s when my jaw really hit the floor.
A savage monologue, a dirty building, form fitting scores and an homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really drives this mini-movie home. When our hero gets to the end of his quest, the viewer is treated to awe-inspiring, absolutely-stunning visuals; so good that I’ve purposely left the promotional stills out of this review because I want you to see just how superb and unsettling they are. This is truly what it means to see Hell on Earth. It’s nothing too over-the-top, but it just works in such an imaginative and frightening way. Think of doing a lot of LSD and mixing your visuals with A Clockwork Orange, Hellraiser, and Devil’s Advocate. This is why you never make a deal with the Devil, folks. Because something like this will happen to you! Despite having several other successful projects, including The 13th Sign, The Devil’s Chair, and Hangman, this was my first taste of Adam Mason’s work and I was thoroughly impressed.
Also, nice gun, Sloan.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.