UNION FURNACE is the latest film from director/co-writer Nicholas Bushman that combines elements from films such as THE GAME against the backdrop of rural America and the never-ending fight for survival. The film stars co-writer Mike Dwyer (Sandbar), Keith David (The Things), Katie Keene (ClownTown), and Seth Hammond.
The film centers on a small town crook named Cody (Dwyer), who meets a mysterious stranger willing to give him the chance of a lifetime. All Cody needs to do is play a game; however, the game, which is run by a group of masked individuals, quickly turns deadly as Cody learns that for each person that loses, their life is taken away. Cody must decide if the promise of an exuberant amount of money is worth the risk of dying or participating in the death of someone else.
This concept isn't something new. I've seen it in many horror/thriller films throughout the years, but what I did like about UNION FURNACE was the backdrop of this small town life that Cody was living. It allowed for the tone of the film to have this all or nothing vibe which really impacted the decisions that Cody made. Cody is a crook, barely getting by in life, and having the opportunity to make a shit ton of money, without truly understanding the consequences, is extremely appealing to someone in Cody's situation. I think that says a lot about where he lives, whether it's because of the lack of jobs and/or motivation, as other people take this stranger's offer without hesitation.
In terms of the acting, I thought that Mike Dwyer was extremely good at embodying his character, Cody. He was able to make me feel for him, even though I knew the lines of morality were a bit ambiguous. However, I was really impressed with new-comer, Seth Hammond, who played the masked ringleader, Lion. I knew I liked him the moment he came on screen, but as soon as he put that Lion mask on, he became someone else completely. I was mesmerized, yet disgusted by his actions. He was suave, using a false sense of understanding, yet unapologetic about his actions. It was as if he was an oncoming train wreck and I couldn't move from the impending crash. And of course there is Keith David, who is fantastic in just about anything he does.
Something I found to be very surprising was that there wasn't a lot of blood and violence for a film such as this. Granted, there are a moments, mostly towards the end of the film, but I assumed that a movie with this sort of concept would be filled with gore and bloodshed. Most of that action was done off screen or it was implied, which allowed the audience to fill in the gaps with their imagination, something I always enjoy doing. With that said, I will warn you that there are a few stomach-turning moments - one which involves eating brains - so if gore isn't your thing, you may want to turn away during that scene.
Overall, I think that UNION FURNACE had a lot of potential. Though I wasn't overly impressed with the encompassing theme of the film, I did like that it focused on rural living and how far people were willing to go to make a quick buck. Seth Hammond is definitely the breakout star of the film and is something we should all have on our radar as I see him quickly becoming a pivotal staple in future films. If you are looking for a gritty horror thriller with quality acting, some fresh faces, and a bit of a twist ending, than you'll want to check out UNION FURNACE.
UNION FURNACE is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD