Joel Umbaugh's feature film debut, Fake I.D., is poised exactly at the apex of modern pop culture, where influences from a dozen different eras come together. Outrageously funny, darkly terrifying and so completely aware of its own ridiculousness, it's a wildly entertaining popcorn flick. Actress Tiffany Wilson, screenwriter Rob Bola, director Joel Umbaugh and actress Tiffany Bullock, framed against the Indianapolis skyline that they turn into an urban hell in 'Fake I.D.'
Umbaugh, along with Chad Richards, director of the short film Coming To My Senses, debuted his opus to a sellout crowd last week at the Indiana History Center, which is quickly becoming the go-to place for local film.
"Coming To My Senses was a test in making a nice tight, solid production, trying to execute everything exactly the way we planned it," Umbaugh said. "Fake I.D. was exactly the opposite of that: a fly by the seat of our pants production. Finding locations hours before we needed them, casting people hours before we were going to shoot and sending them lines by e-mail."
Coming To My Senses is nine tight minutes polished to a gleam, anchored by the performance of Cassandra Schomer in the near-silent role of a woman who suddenly learns to appreciate the full scope of the world around her.
On the other hand, Fake I.D.'s tumultuous shoot lends itself exceptionally well to the gritty, lived-in feel of the story, in which three small-town high school girls go out for one last adventure before graduation, with a couple of fake I.D.s in hand. Mistaken identity ensues, crime lords show up, everything goes to hell.
The film is loaded with great performances, but it's really carried by the three female leads. Tiffany Bullock is virtually a force of nature, tearing through the first part of the film with quick one-liners and pitch-perfect delivery.
Shannon O'Neil has probably the most thankless role, as the prude who finds herself in all manner of innocence-ruining scrapes and constantly needs rescuing, but she carries it off with great aplomb.
But in the end it falls to Tiffany Wilson to carry things through, as the group's de facto leader who has to face her own fears and dark family past.
Fake I.D. is like American Pie meets The Warriors as written by Quentin Tarantino. It's a 1980s teen dark comedy with the structure of modern video games, complete with outrageous boss battles.
In a hyperpaced 90 minutes, Rob Boly's inventive script cannonballs through quirky brothels, a gang of hunter/killer stalkers with a modus operandi so bizarre it would be cheating to tell what's up - let's just say the pawnshop guys from Pulp Fiction have at last been outclassed. Don't take a bathroom break during this one; you'll completely lose track.
Who'd have thought you could film a suspenseful chase thriller in Indianapolis? Umbaugh pulls it off, turning the side streets and alleyways of downtown into harrowing, orange-hued nightmares. I recommend the escapist fun of Fake I.D.
Fake I.D. will be available on DVD next month. For more information on both films, check out www.umbaughfilmworks.com.