One thing that can be said of filmmaker Kely McClung is that he’s always up for a challenge. Whether that challenge includes globe-trotting from Atlanta to Thailand for his action film Blood Ties or as he does in his latest film Altered attempting to change the perception of audiences very literally.
Altered employs an unusual narrative structure to subvert the audience’s expectations. “I thought it would be a really interesting way of telling a story,“ Kely says, “I think it mirrors the way we learn and struggle.”
Altered tells the story of a young woman dealing with relentlessly varying characters and events in a seamy Chicago neighborhood that has a serial killer on the loose. However, the part the woman plays in the story can be open to interpretation. Not only are the perceptions of the characters challenged, but the perceptions of the audience as well.
The movie has been aptly compared to Jacob’s Ladder (the film by Adrian Lyne not the song by Rush) for its imaginative hallucinatory images that play into the narrative. Altered’s story is set in Chicago but is filmed in Gary, IN as well which marks a shift from McClung’s previous base of production in Atlanta. The reason for the change has a lot to do with making the location a character in its own right. Described as a virtual ghost town, Gary provided an ideal setting for McClung’s purposes, “My formula for making a movie look rich is ‘rust, dust and dirt’,” says Kely who found plenty of those elements in the Indiana city.
As always, McClung employs a very spare crew of dedicated filmmakers to help him bring an ambitious project to life. Dan Slemons, Molly Coffee and other Atlanta-based crew members made the trek to Indiana and Chicago during principal photography. Jessica “Imoto” Harney led the charge on Altered as well. She served as the Co-Producer and Director of Photography among other roles on the project. It’s always impressive to see how much Kely McClung is able to accomplish with production value with such a small crew. He relishes the challenges though, “I can think of nothing more exciting than battling the odds with friends and family to create something meaningful.”
As with many of Kely’s previous films, he takes a central role in front of the camera and Rob Pralgo (Furious 7, “Vampire Diaries”) plays an essential role as well. Amanda Dreschler plays the lead while Stan Harrington and Atlanta actor Keith Brooks (“The Walking Dead”) join the cast in key supporting roles.
There are strong themes and some graphic content at play in Altered though not merely placed there gratuitously. It’s meant to make the audience uncomfortable, “It’s a means to force them to think and confront their perceptions,” Kely stresses, “…the discomfort comes from knowing this stuff exists all around us.” The intent is not simply to challenge an audience for the sake of doing it. McClung believes that people have the power to change the world through their own perception, and the film underscores that belief in a powerful way.
The film has already garnered strong reviews from genre critics and is poised for a significant festival run prior to its release later this year.