The 2015 film The World Made Straight, is a dose of southern drama, holding off the cheese, and delivering a tale which encompasses the Civil War, the drug culture and how weed seems to have replaced White Lightning as the redneck’s produce of choice. Noah Wyle plays the “Professor,” aka Leonard; a disgraced school teacher who was framed for selling pot. After losing his wife and child, along with his job, he decides to deal drugs and drop out of society.
He takes in a lad who leaves home after an argument with his overbearing father. Travis (played by Brit actor Jeremy Irvine, who made his name in War Horse) steals some marijuana plants from the local drug lord and sells them to Leonard on the advice of his friend Shank (Haley Joel Osment).
Leonard lives with his drug addict girlfriend Dena (Minka Kelly) who is not best pleased with the news that Travis will be living in the trailer as well. The “Professor” has a fascination with the past, as his ancestors and Travis’ were part of the Shelton Laurel massacre. A real event where 13 suspected union sympathizers were executed, the youngest being 13 years-old, although in the film they repeatedly refer to his age as 12.
The movie is adapted from the Ron Rash 2006 novel of the same name. This drama is a slow moving tale which features a few flashback sequences of the Civil War massacre and Leonard’s more recent past. The feeling is one of doomed existence as well as an acceptance of fate. As directed by David Burris, his first feature film in the chair, The World Made Straight moves at a snail’s pace.
Amazingly this does not detract from the power of the actor’s performances and actually helps the viewer get into the story. With its reflection on needless violence and the need for escape, the film holds our attention throughout.
Wyle is excellent as the over-educated drug pusher who cannot stop reading his ancestor’s Civil War diary and is desperate to save Travis from a dead end existence in the area. Irvine as Travis Shelton is all angst and ire, unhappy with his lot in life yet resenting the interference from his girlfriend (played by Australian actress Adelaide Clemens) and Leonard.
What is missing from this film is that “cheese” factor where the action all feels like a soap opera in progress and each character a stereotype. The one problem with the movie is that it feels more like a TV movie of the week rather than a “proper” film. Available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, the film is a bit on the long side, but still enjoyable.
With GTA V passing the 1 billion mark in just three days after its release as well as looking to earn its second billion very shortly and the Breaking Bad series finale drawing a record number of views, it looks like both Rockstar games and AMC have proved that crime is popular during a financial slump.
When I was about 11 or 12 my dad bought a big two story house in the small town of Lincoln, Arkansas. It was right next door to my Gran’s house, except for a vacant lot that sat between the two houses and served as a great place for baseball, football, and any other leisure activity you could think of.
We lived quite a long distance from this house and weekends were spent going down and ‘camping out’ in the house while dad renovated the house for us. It was fun. We slept on camp beds and by the time Monday had come along, everyone was glad to go back to their regular pursuits.
The house itself could be a bit unsettling. Hell, to call a spade a spade, it could be just downright scary. The family who’d lived in the house before we bought it had a son. This young man was a bit off in left field. That is the kindest way I can think to put it.
The detached garage that came with the house had been graffitied from the floor up to and including the ceiling. Swastika’s filled just about every free space. A number of statements that declared that all Jewish people must die fought for equal billing on the garage’s interior. To step into that place was a gooseflesh inducer. It felt creepy, wrong and on some deeper level, scary.
Going into the house and upstairs to the bedrooms we found that two of the rooms led right to the attic. The attic and one bedroom was filled with iron crosses. These crosses had all been stolen from Civil Wargraves throughout the regions cemetery’s. I cannot remember the reason they’d been stolen. I don’t know if it was for the metal or for some other arcane and disturbing reason.
A few phone calls later and the crosses were on their way home. It had apparently been baffling police for sometime as to who had taken the crosses and where they might be. I am pretty sure that they were all put back on the graves they were taken from.
On the same day that we found the garage shrine to Hitler and the Civil War crosses, I found the puzzle box lid. The caption or name of the puzzle has long since vanished in the recesses of my memory. The actual picture on the box lid of the puzzle, has not.
The scene was set in a ‘Hammer’ version of a Victorian England graveyard. A red brick mausoleum lurked in the background amid bushes and trees. In the foreground a werewolf moved through the gravestones toward some unsuspecting victim. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?
But, it was.
The amount of detail was incredible. The werewolf looked as though he could leap off the box lid and rip your throat out. The amount of blood and gore dripping from his claws and mouth attested to the fact that he had already attacked someone. The eyes in his furry face rolled madly and he literally scared the crap out of me. As I sat looking at this box lid, my brother had wandered to the back of the closet where we’d found this horror puzzle box lid.
He found more Civil War crosses and as I moved to see what he’d found, the closet door slammed shut and we were trapped in the closet. I kicked the door, but as the closet was not very deep, I couldn’t get enough power behind the kicks to pop the door back open. We tried yelling for help and even banged on the floor with one of the very heavy crosses.
After what seem like an eternity, my father came upstairs looking for my brother and me. By this time we were so hoarse that all we could manage was a quiet, ‘help.’ We were let out and my father made note of the fact that the door handles on the closet were the wrong kind and set about removing the one currently on the door.
When we next came to see the house the box lid with its monstrous werewolf had vanished.
When I asked my dad, he could not remember seeing it, but was of the opinion that it had belonged to the ‘black sheep’ son of the previous family. He then told me a story about the young man.
“Seems this boy drove his motorcycle over the state border into Oklahoma. He went to one of the ‘Indian’ towns there and parked his bike on the main drag. There was a Pool Hall there and he could see a load of boys from the area playing pool. After a minute or two of watching the local Indians play pool through the hall’s plate glass window, he decided to go in. The second he gets in the room he starts singing, ‘One little, two little, three little Indians…’ He didn’t get any further than that. One of the braves broke a pool cue over his face and he got thrown through the plate glass window.”
Dad stopped there and wiped his forehead, “What a crazy-assed thing to do.” He looked at me and smiled. “You know,” he said, “they still haven’t found his motorbike, but, he’s still got the scars from that night.”
I know what he meant. After all the years since we lived in that house and some of the downright strange and scary things that happened there, I still have memories that are like long healed scars. The puzzle box lid for instance. I only have to close my eyes and the lid leaps to the front of my mental eye. I can recall just about every detail of that damned werewolf. The slobber that ran from his mouth, the blood and gore that dripped from his claws and chin, and the torn bloody state of his clothes.
Not long ago I had the brilliant idea of Googling this particular image and got absolutely nothing back. I even varied my search. Still nothing. That’s okay though. If I was a better artist, I could draw from memory the image of the box lid. But to be really honest? I’m glad I don’t have that talent. Like everything else that this strange young man had touched, it just seemed wrong.
I also hope that whatever strange phase this fellow was going through, that he outgrew it, or at the very least grew up and lost interest. If he hasn’t, I hope I never bump into him.