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Our little youth oriented popcorn thriller, Rites of Passage, was a
labor of love by two best friends who had met while attending UCSB over
30 years ago. They decided to make a feature film, shook hands, and 9
months later we were on set shooting.
Having college age sons, both of us were fascinated with how aggressive and potentially harmful college life has become. Besides the stress of academics in a new world where jobs are scarce, there's The hook up sex, binge drinking, hard drugs. These drugs include the prescription drugs parents / doctors allow them to have, such as Ritalin to study, Zoloft for their depressions, and Xanax for their anxiety. Personally, as a recovering alcoholic with 8 years of sobriety, I am very concerned for these young people. Also, we live in a western society where there is no ceremony to mark the passage to adulthood, unless you are Jewish, or go fight a war. Our youth are left to wing it, get drunk on their 21st, whatever. My partner grew up fascinated with Chumash Indians because he grew up on a property that is an ancient burial ground. He has such respect for these California native Americans that we began to see a story we could tell.
We had a mantra. Four points for Success. 1) You need a burning desire. 2). You need a definite plan culled from the masters. 3). Eliminate all negativity. 4) Aliign ourselves with like minded people who share our dream.
We started by making a 20 minutes home movie that was shot on a $800 dollar camera and edited on my laptop. This little teaser movie illustrated the world and themes of the film. I would play this movie on my laptop at business meetings and we slowly raised our $2.5 million dollar budget with it. We asked top producer Mark Canton to join our team, and now we had credibility and his considerable know how to guide us. Thank you, MC.
Christian Slater was the first big name to sign on and we are forever in his debt. We had made a proper money offer to his reps, but after months of waiting, I got his cell phone number from a mutual friend, and I personally called Christian. He was very gracious. He read the script that night, as he had it in a pile on his desk, and Christian committed to the film the next morning.
As a first time director I called on every favor I had coming from industry veterans to assist me. Coming form a writing background, I was aware I am not tech savvy. We compensate for experience with preparation. I had a vision and my job was to communicate that to the pros in each department and then let them do their job. Our DP Alex Nevins spent weeks with me shot listing scenes at the actual locations.
The key to low budget filmmaking is to limit company moves. You burn too much time and money moving the crew from one location to the next. So we had to craft a film that we could shoot in one large multi purpose location. We used my partner's family rose ranch, with the incredible dilapidated greenhouses and the cottage overlooking the beach. We shot there for 4 weeks, and also shot 1week in Isla Vista - using the exact beach front "bowling alley" apartment where I had lived over 30 years ago. The students living there are featured in the movie and that enormous "Bong of The Gods" in the party scene was a something these student engineers had built.
I was paid one dollar to direct, while making a six figure investment into the production budget. This film, my very first, was a labor of love. We had a wonderful adventure and made lifelong friends. We overcame adversity and learned great lessons.
We are sad to see many Chumash Indians are angry over this film. They call me White Liar and a Cultural Prostitute. But all of us only have love and respect for the Chumash, and we worked believing our film was expanding awareness of the crimes committed against these native people. You decide if we were disrespectful. I don't believe we were. It is interesting to note we tried very hard to get a native American Indian actor to play the character of Dani. Three days before shooting, our actress fell out, and we had to scramble. Kate Maberly flew in from London as an emergency favor to me, but we had to rewrite the character to be half British, half Chumash. These are the kinds of headaches you deal with in film making. The key is keeping your cool. Just solve the problem. And keep moving forward.
The first half of the film is shot in a locked down style. But the last 40 minutes are all hand-held, to portray the sense of chaos and confusion the characters are going through. The great Elia Cmiral (Ronin) did the score. Crystal Method and Devastating Karate gave me their fabulous music for free - as we had no money left for songs.
If you are an inspiring filmmaker, I hope our little thriller inspires you to make your own dreams come true. Anything is Possible if your put your mind to it.
Peace and Love
W. Peter Iliff
We spent roughly $1 million on production, $1 million on actors, and $500K for post.
Rites of Passage is a flawed piece of filmmaking about a college dweeb
trying to prove his manhood to his peers by dragging two van loads of
his peers plus a professor (played by Stephen Dorff in a nothing role)
out on a field trip to his family home in order to observe ancient
Indian land on his property and take ancient Indian hallucinogens.
In the meantime, his disturbed brother (Wes Bentley) is almost as obsessed with finding a woman as he is with Native American history. He, along with his deranged, grieving grounds keeper (Christian Slater), have been cooking, using, and selling the hallucinogenic flowers as well. Of course, it's bad news when these two unstable characters run up against a bunch of pretty young students, especially when a tragic coincidence turns out to link them in an unexpected way.
The short review of this movie is that it sucks. Essentially, it's just an overcomplicated dead teenager movie with an above average cast. In one of the few highlights of the movie, scream queen Brianna Evigan pops up in a smallish part and spends most of her screen time in her underwear. In fact, most of the actresses are either in their underwear or bikinis for most of the movie but there's no actual nudity. Not much gore, either. And the characters aren't remotely likable so this is the sort of movie where you're hoping for everyone to die but disappointed when the death scenes are generic, mostly bloodless and generally forgettable.
Rites of Passage is all over the place, silly, and kind of pointless. It's not really an anti drug movie, it's not hardly scary, and it's not often funny. The only entertainment value comes from Christian Slater's crazy, over-the-top acting as he scrambles around waving a shotgun, muttering to himself, and hallucinating. Basically, imagine Tucker and Dale vs. Evil made without any of the wit.
Attempting to visit an authentic Indian burial ground for research, a
group of students partying away at the site run afoul of a demented
killer looking to punish them for a past indiscretion and forcing them
to fight him off to get out alive.
This here turned out to be quite a misguided effort, mainly because so much of it really doesn't gel together the way it is. The premise of turning a haunted burial ground into a slasher is quite novel and generates much of the positives toward this, but the fact that the killer is absolutely pathetic, generates no fear or suspense from his physical appearance since he's essentially a homeless person for all intents and purposes and runs around with a shotgun, not a true slasher weapon which relegates all the kills to gunshot wounds or merciless pounding with a foreign object, greatly reducing the gore quotient here that could've saved this. The constant drug use allows for a few freaky hallucinations from time-to-time but the vast majority of the time nothing substantial happens during the trip, rendering it quite curious as to why it was featured as it was and why there was a huge furor from the characters to include it, so overall this has way too many problems. Even more ridiculous is the animated talking sock puppet giving the lead advice, a tactic that tries to make this a comedy but fails miserably as it comes off as incredibly lame more than anything, and it really only has a few isolated individual moments where it approaches watchability to make this enticing.
Rated R: Continuous pervasive drug use, Graphic Language, Graphic Violence and Brief Nudity.
First - it takes WAY too long for this movie to get going.
Second - I believe in respecting all cultures, but this movie was so ridiculous (talking sock puppet), that I don't know how any Native American could be offended by any representations in the film.
Now, college professors and students look pretty stupid.
There ARE some pretty amusing moments.
Most from Christian Slater.
Although I felt all the actors did a great job, the material?
I wouldn't waste my time.
The "4" is because I actually made it through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having to post a negative review for films like this always leaves me
feeling troubled, mainly because this one is a film debut for W. PETER
ILIFF, who seems to have tried to make one of the best horror/comedies
he could, unfortunately he didn't succeed, as RITES OF PASSAGE (I saw
it under the highly unfavourable title of CREEPERS) is an overall
overly long & silly film that quickly wears out it's welcome about
midway. The film has no scares & although I enjoyed the banter between
the crazy trying to kill the kids & a stuffed monkey whom he has tied
to his shotgun, overall the film was a complete dud. The film is only
partially well acted, usually from the leads & although Peter fares
well behind the camera, he still has to learn that pacing is everything
& in this case Rites really drags on in the first two thirds of the
movie & when the action finally does kick in, it's not to suspenseful &
lacks any kind of atmosphere & chills that good horror films have.
Christian Slater is fun to watch & I loved his portrayal of the loony &
TRAVIS VAN WINKLE & STEPHEN DORFF really shine in their roles, but
sadly there's nothing here to recommend. There are no cool kills on
hand, or any real atmosphere & all of the characters are annoying at
best. Prior to seeing this, I never heard or seen any mention of this
film on any of the horror movie websites & thus I'm going to assume
that the film was direct to DVD, but even with that, I've still seen
many direct to DVD movies that got some exposure on some of the more
popular horror movie websites, so why not this? especially since the
film has a few recognizable faces in the cast. From what I can see, the
director wrote the screenplay for the fun PATRICK SWAYZE action
thriller, POINT BREAK, perhaps in the future he's best to sticking with
action films, since horror is definitely not his strongest suit. In the
end, RITES OF PASSAGE is mostly a mediocre horror/comedy film.
It starts with the poster being misleading I was hoping the movie would
be cool like the poster. The poster is actually way better than the
The movie is supposed to be about Native American stuff, however if you blink you will miss the parts that have actual Native Actors. This film reinforces some dangerous ideas about recreational use herbs as hallucinogenic drugs, Cultural Stereotypes about Native people and the objectification of women.
Native woman are 3x more likely to be raped than other groups. This movie glamorizes the abduction and assault of Native American women which is totally inexcusable as a substitute for entertainment.
This movie actually sucks to the max. The acting is shoddy and its a terrible misuse of Stephen Dorff's talent (which is huge) I am really bummed he was in this turkey. Nobody in this movie is even Chumash and they managed to P' off an entire tribe of Native Americans for this tomato of a film. Nice one, jerks.
DON'T SEE IT!! Save the popcorn for a better occasion.
What do you get when you add one stupid plot, a huge serving of
terrible acting, a bit of sex, drugs, and violence, and a heaping dose
of cultural insensitivity?
You get a terrible 2012 movie called 'The Rites of Passage'.
The story may seem like it's trying to be a scary movie, but there isn't really anything scary about it. You don't feel enough for the characters to really care about what happens to them.
You'd think a story about a bunch of horny kids and a couple of psychos out to kill them would make for a very entertaining slasher movie, but no. The execution was terrible. In fact, saying it was unimaginative and predictable is an understatement.
The acting in this movie range from decent to something awful, with the decent part coming from the veteran actors.
This movie makes women look bad and it glorifies sex and drug use at the expense of a certain Native American tribe. You can see it was a cheap attempt to lure people in, simple-minded people to be exact.
This really is painful to watch. The only reasons I could think of to watch this movie is:
1. To rip on it and 2. To learn how NOT to make a movie.
Aside from that: Turn around and walk away.
While this movie is no award winning film, it does seem to get audiences attention. From beginning to end the film keeps a fast and thrilling pace, which help my attention. I was lucky enough to hear the directors speak in person, so I consider my self a little bias after really liking then men who made the film. In terms of the actual quality of the movie I think it was a fairly good movie. Definitely marketed towards a younger crowd. Includes a lot of sex, drugs, and partying so if your are into that you will find this movie entertaining. Also, the film includes a lot of blood and murder, so if you like funny thrillers it is the film for you. Would I buy a copy to own? Probably not. But it was enjoyable to watch since it was filmed in Isla Vista, where I currently live. All in all Rites of Passage is a goofy thriller good for a night in with popcorn, and a few laughs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rites of Passage film horribly offensive in how Native women are objectified sexually, and how First Nations Peoples are objectified and exploited. This film encourages and excuses violence perpetuated against Native women and Native people, which has the highest statistics of all ethnic groups...it makes GAP pathetic "want to be" designers like McNairy OK with shirts that celebrate ethnic cleansing. It is repulsive that anyone would want to defend this film or be proud of it. There should be a meeting with a delegation of Chumash Elders to discuss how inappropriate and exploitive this film is. There should be a stop to the distribution of this film, the film itself should be burned not only because of the cultural prostitution involved with it but also because of the bad acting in it- AIM Southern California
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A professor takes his class on a field trip to experiment with Chumash
Indian drug-taking. When they get there, two demented brothers apply
their serial killing skills to the group.
There is some established talent here - Christian Slater, Wes Bentley, Stephen Dorff on screen, and the writer of Point Break scripting and behind the camera. It is with him that the blame lies, because a film which is, perhaps, hoping to be a bit clever (Slater has delirious dialogues with an animated sock. It's that kind of movie) is, in fact, stuffed with clichés while being semi-incoherent. Bentley's character wanders around in quasi-autistic isolation while Slater is even more wildly over the top than usual. And they are the established talent - imagine what we get from the unknowns. For a slasher, there is very little blood and, for a teen sex movie, well, there isn't any.
The story as to how this film got made is many, many times more interesting than the film itself which is, frankly, downright poor. It is, however, very nicely lit and photographed. It is interesting to note that the reviews on IMDb break down broadly into two groups - those who are students at the university featured, live in and around the area where it was filmed, and attended the premiere, who all think it was pretty good, and everyone else, who don't.
I'm one of everyone else. I don't think it was pretty good.
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