The Milwaukee Film Festival continues at various theaters across the city this week, and if you are looking for a thriller with a Midwest sensibility, Uncle John will keep you on your toes throughout.
Some of you may remember actor John Ashton for his character roles in the Beverly Hills Cop or Midnight Run films, but in this independent film Ashton becomes the focus of attention as a quiet Wisconsin carpenter…and murderer.
"I did theater for twenty years, so for me it was sort of like doing a play. I got back to my roots a little bit," Ashton says.
Uncle John is a two-pronged storyline that captures both farm and city life while being ominous and just ambiguous enough to cover up what John is hiding. Director and writer Steven Piet grew up in Chicago, while writer Erik Crary grew up in the small town of Lodi, Wisconsin. Both writers were inspired by the darkness that can hide behind seemingly pleasant townsfolk in a close community and yet be more exposed in city life.
"These stories didn't seem like the stereotypical peaceful Americana small town, there was some darkness underneath," says Piet. "So when we wanted to tell a story in that town we wanted to assign a genre to it, and that genre was a thriller."
With a deliberate pace and style, the film exposes just enough as it progresses to keep the audience engaged. Crary explains that this set up was very deliberate, not only to reflect the pace of small town life, but for character development.
"We felt that if we got to know the characters and started to care for the characters, then when things got really tense and suspenseful it would mean a lot to a viewer," he says.
Uncle John is director Steven Piet’s first feature. The film premiered at the Milwaukee Film Festival on October 1st and will have its final screening October 8th at the Oriental. The film is now also available On Demand.