The concept of “Welcome to Redville” is nothing new—finding yourselves in a sort of yesteryear Americana that, as time passes, is revealed as a form of inescapable hellscape. The execution of “Welcome to Redville” within such a limited budget is what makes it stand out. Two diamond robbers, Leo (Jack Manley) and Toni (Highdee Kuan), conduct a diamond robbery and hightail it out of there.
The movie opens with the chase scene while intercutting with the moments within the heist until they manage to escape the authorities by driving over a 30-foot drop and surviving. After that, they drive through until their car gives out. They finally drag the car to an idyllic town called Redville. As Toni and Leo begin to move around Redville, things begin to feel slightly off, with characters behaving and almost beckoning Jack to give in and commit to his sinful desires and commit a robbery in Redville again, which finally leads to strange and weird results.
“Welcome to Redville” more than makes up for its limitations, be it the digital effects (smoke from the car, bullets, cracks in the glass) or the sometimes loud acting, with its conviction. The story that Heaton and original story author Daniel Devoto are dealing with lends itself to a form of conviction. Because the world being created has to be distinctly familiar with reality and yet just slightly off. The differences as time passes would be reflected within the volatile protagonist itself.
Stories like these also require a volatile protagonist—a commentary on an individual still uncertain about finding a place they could call home. Both of these protagonists hail from orphanages, making their reactions towards Redville understandable. But as both of them become more and more familiar with the place, the differences in their reactions set them apart.
For Leo, it is typical to fall back into his robbery ways, due to which he chooses to listen to Lila (Sabrina Haskett), the aforementioned siren in the story. She is the bartender who also works at the jewelry shop where the big diamond is kept, which is run by her uncle. Her father is the sheriff of this town, and her brother-in-law runs the ammunition shop in this town. This could be a cheeky commentary on the almost incestuous nature of small towns in general or just a general observation of how coincidences can blend into each other as reality and dreams tend to collide.
The interesting wrinkle that Heaton brings to the story is Toni’s reaction after the robbery occurs. Her genuine acceptance of the slowness of the town, the corny jokes, and the general surrealism are different, with her justification making sense: it is far better to live in this yesteryear dreamscape than to go back to reality, where cops would chase them again and capitalistic tendrils would try to control them again.
Similarly, Leo’s reaction and final decision to burn it all down make sense in that he is trying to reconcile this reality and break out of the cage that is Redville. Due to this, it suddenly becomes a twisted version of “Assault on Precinct 13”, just with clowns and sheriffs who are all undead and can’t be killed.
This writer genuinely admires this movie because of the swings it takes in telling this story. It truly proves that a budget is inversely proportional to a good idea. “Welcome to Redville” is not without flaws. The acting by Jack Manley is especially loud, while Haskett’s Lila is sometimes too self-aware and cheeky for you to buy into the narrative of the whole story. At some points, the visions being shown to Leo are too noticeable, and thus, the world itself starts to strain within its own reality being created.
If the entire concept of Redville is a form of purgatory in Jack’s head, why are the clowns the only thing reminiscent of his past? Why aren’t the other characters in Redville related in some sense to his or Toni’s past? Conversely, if Redville is simply a version of purgatory being seen by travelers through that deserted stretch of road, then are the residents of Redville all prior people? But Highdee Kuan as Toni is fantastic. She truly describes her relationship with Leo and her confusion and final acceptance of the life being led by the couple.
What this writer is asking, fully aware that this is a nitpick of a movie that is 88 minutes long, is a bit of an elaboration on the world being created. But most importantly, this writer would have wished for a story like this to be more ambiguous in its ending or to sidestep the obviousness of its ending. As it stands, “Welcome to Redville” is an independent project worth seeking out despite its flaws simply because of the big swings it takes, and more often than not, it manages to connect.