Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade

Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade (1994)

“I reckon I’ll have to get used to looking at pretty people.”

Today’s movie is another short film, and once again it’s a fairly influential short. This time, however the influence is much more concentrated and specific than yesterday’s entry. Today I watched Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, the 1994 short film that was remade and extended two years later as the Academy Award winning feature film from, Sling Blade.

Since I haven’t yet seen the later film, I won’t be burdened with comparing this movie to its long-form successor.

The film stars Billy Bob Thornton, (who also wrote the film), as Karl Childers, a mentally challenged man who is about to be released from custody after twenty-five years committed to a mental institution for murdering his mother and her lover. Molly Ringwald plays Teresa Tatum, a reporter who’s been granted an interview with Karl as part of an article on the topic of institutionalized inmates being released into society.

The film centers around a monologue in which Karl recounts his story of his upbringing and how he killed his mother and her lover with a kaiser blade, (some folks call it a sling blade, Karl calls it a kaiser blade.) This monologue is bookended by scenes with Teresa discussing the topic of Karl’s release with her photographer and the institution’s warden. As well, as another monologue wherein another, deeply disturbed patient at the facility almost gleefully describes his crimes to Karl.

The film is definitely interesting, and I can absolutely see why it was adapted into a feature film. Karl is a fascinating character, and Thorton’s portrayal is fantastic. Both his behavior as Karl, and his physical appearance are so different that it’s hard to believe that this is the same actor I just saw last week in Bad Santa.

At the same time, it really feels like there’s just not much there. The film is about twenty minutes long (excluding the credits,) and it takes its time getting there. The movie really seems to just scratch the surface of an interesting character’s story. As such, it really just serves to make me want to watch the feature film. Still, judged on its own merits, I’m going to say that Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade is worth seeing, though depending on what’s in the feature, it may be rendered unnecessary.

[Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994) – Directed by George Hickenlooper – Not Rated]

OM|ED Rating: Worth SeeingWinter Shorts series