You'd think that someone who's achieved Aaron Eckhart's level of success would have always been wise enough to steer clear of a project called 'Suicidal Resurrection,' but then again we're talking about the square-jawed star who recently appeared in a movie called 'Love Happens,' so maybe some things never change.
Bad student films can happen to good actors, and there's no shame in that. These are enterprises purely intended to be learning experiences, after all, and you've got to leap before you can fly -- you've got to be in 'Thursday' before you can be in 'Any Given Sunday.' Having said that, Vince Mellen's 'Suicidal Resurrection' is truly something special. Billed by the filmmaker as Aaron Eckhart's "first role EVER on film," the 139-second short isn't just another student film, it's all of them combined. Follow the jump to check it out for yourself.
'Suicidal Resurrection' is a 16mm film that was shot at Brigham Young University during the early 1990s, written and directed by a young man named Vince Mellen. It's a dark and rather gruesome affair, epitomizing in its brief and grainy duration approximately all the stereotypes that existed around student films before the advent of digital photography. A rather unique work that doesn't rely on typical reference points like Kenneth Anger (well, there's some Bergman in there) so much as it anticipates the likes of 'The Ring' and that student film Howard Stern makes in 'Private Parts,' 'Suicidal Resurrection' includes all the greatest hits. You've got the static camera, the eerie score that sounds comprised of Ed Wood's favorite sound effects, the gaggle of young people howling in silent terror... it's just that in this particular film, one of those young people went on to become Harvey Dent.
'Suicidal Resurrection' is easier to say with a straight face than it is to understand, but here's how Vince Mellen describes the story in his own words: "The Basic Convoluted Plot: I asked myself: 'What if, after the official resurrection, a guy still wished he was dead. If he committed suicide in LIFE, wouldn't he hand himself again in death... for eternity?'" Ah yes, that age-old question (and judging by the film, I would guess that Mr. Mellen meant "hang," rather than "hand."). What that description translates into is "Aaron Eckhart and a girl come across a dude hanging in the woods. She screams. It's kind of annoying, so Eckhart tackles her a few times only to then decide that beating the hanging guy with a stick might be more fun or a better way of quelling his fury. So he beats the hanging guy with a stick, and then strides off as if walking away from an explosion. The end." In all sincerity, it's actually rather unsettling in its own way.
The footage hasn't aged particularly well, and the YouTube clip can be tough to make out, but despite the fact that he's billed as Aaron "Eckhardt" in the closing credits, a brief close-up at the 1:41 mark should clear up any doubt that we're actually looking at the future Two-Face. And to hear it from Mellen, Eckhart was a joy to work with and a consummate professional from the very beginning. Mellen testifies that Eckhart "Was willing to try anything. He called my directing style 'The Lon Chaney School of Acting.'" Mellen adds that Eckhart was "Very funny, really. Aaron actually came up with the idea of clubbing the 'hanging man' and prodding him with a stick. Nice stuff." That's quite a contribution when you think about it, as without that beat 'Suicidal Resurrection' would have just been the story of a guy who finds someone hanging in the woods and then decides to tackle a random woman.
Mellen's YouTube channel suggests that he matured into an interesting and diversely talented filmmaker who never truly abandoned the imagery present in 'Suicidal Resurrection.' For Aaron Eckhart, the film might have been a more pivotal experience than one might imagine, as later in his Brigham Young tenure the young actor would be cast in the film 'Godly Sorrow.' Around that time Eckhart caught the eye of another BYU student by the name of Neil LaBute, a burgeoning playwright who was quick to cast the actor in various theatrical productions. LaBute's star would soon rise and he would happily take Eckhart along with him, casting his school chum in both 'In the Company of Men' and 'Your Friends & Neighbors.' Less than a year later Eckhart would earn himself substantial roles in films by Oliver Stone and Steven Soderbergh ('Erin Brockovich'), and that's the story of why Aaron Eckhart played "Truck Stop Patron" in Neil LaBute's legendary remake of 'The Wicker Man.'