King Ripple is a new short film that follows four teens as they travel into desolate and decrepit urban wasteland brought forth by the very being they wish to find, dead or alive. It’s directed by Luke Jaden, an 18 year old actor and producer, also known for Wolf Who Cried Boy and The Listing.
While Hollywood continues to churn out movies with longer running times, ensemble casts, and bigger explosions, the short film feels more and more like a lost art. Based on a short story by Josh Malerman (author of the acclaimed Bird Box), the movie follows four teenagers who wander into a ruined city, ruled by a mythic being who can create and destroy at will. It accomplishes more in its eleven minute running time than most films do in 110 minutes.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Jaden about the film. He cites Stephen King, particularly the coming of age stories like “The Body” (basis for Stand by Me) and It—his production company is called Derry Films, after the town from the sprawling horror novel. Like many coming of age stories, King Ripple makes use of the archetype of “the bad place,” a forbidden area where the characters must enter and be transformed. Shot on location in the dilapidated buildings and dangerous streets of Detroit, the city serves as a stand-in for the ‘bad place’ horror trope. What starts as a dare among friends, becomes an encounter with the otherworldly, the horrific.
Growing up outside of Detroit, Jaden says the city has a forbidden, mythical quality to it. He was warned by his parents to never venture into it. From being the hub of industry to its current, post-recession state, the city has a history of tragedy and triumph that’s worthy of any story. Jaden believes there is beauty in this, and he and I come to an agreement that if something’s perfect, it’s probably not worth documenting; it doesn’t have a story, even if it one day will.
The filmmaker was eighteen-years-old while making the film, and going through all the life changes that come with that age, along with some others. He describes his mother’s battle with cancer as dominating the forefront of his thoughts, an exclamation point on the usual growing pains experienced when one becomes an adult. He says ultimately the film is about growing up, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. And the film is a puzzle, giving us just enough to understand the rules, before launching into a subtext-laden presentation. I detected a considerable Lynchian influence, which the director confirms.
This is not to say the film is hard to grasp. The surface story is there, and it’s a great, bite-sized horror movie. But below the surface linger themes as old as the universe itself, and just as timeless.
I ask him what he’s working on next. He says, “I can’t say much about it right now, but it’s a psychological thriller dressed up as a sci-fi film that explores the dichotomy of a strong ensemble. Essentially, it’s Memento meets Source Code.”
With films like this, the future of horror cinema looks bright, as young eyes turn their gaze towards the darkness, with passion, vision, and fresh perspectives.
Lucas Mangum is an author living in Austin, TX. He enjoys wrestling, cats, wrestling with cats, and drinking craft beer while crafting weird tales. His debut novel, FLESH AND FIRE, is out now as part of Journalstone’s Double Down series with a new novel by New York Times Bestseller Jonathan Maberry and Rachael Lavin. Visit him atlucasmangum.com or follow him on Twitter @LMangumFiction and talk to him about books, pro-wrestling and horror movies.