Firefly

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There are enough solid ideas in “Firefly” to make it a great film, if its screenplay were tightened by a few pages and a more deft director took the reins. Someone like M. Night Shyamalan (pre-“The Village,” obviously) could do wonders with material like this.

Made on the cheap in the filmmakers’ native Minnesota, it’s set a week before Christmas, when a trio of unconnected people in their 20s are still reeling from the events of Halloween night. Del (Chris Marcy, also co-writer), an amateur horror-film maker, screened his latest digital-video shlock for some friends at a party and doesn’t remember much after that. Brandt (Pete Marcy, also director and co-writer) had words with his difficult girlfriend Rachel (Sara Persons) and woke up the next morning floating on the river in his pumpkin costume. Susan (Lindsay Hinman) was abducted by three masked party-goers and, she believes, raped — but she can’t recall any of it.

There is also another figure, a small bald man named Arnold (Devon Jorlett) who wakes up each day with premonitions of a different stranger’s death, which he is compelled to prevent.

The movie’s last 15 minutes are fantastic, cleverly revealing what happened that night and explaining all the clues we’ve been given over the course of the film — Arnold’s coughing, Susan’s compulsive daily jogs, Brandt’s paranoia that Susan is cheating on him, and so on. The problem is, we have to slog through 100 minutes of wandering to get to it. Susan tries to find the men in the masks, Del has lost his passion for making B-movies, Brandt is obsessive about Rachel, and if we eventually understand why these things are, it doesn’t make the journey feel any less meandering in retrospect. In fact, several scenes still seem pointless even after we have all the facts.

It’s a C-grade movie up until the end, when the film’s mildly supernatural true colors emerge and we see how carefully it was all laid out. That redeems it somewhat, but not enough to whole-heartedly recommend it. This is good material, squandered by inexperience.

C+ (1 hr., 55 min.; Not Rated, probably PG-13 for a couple harsh profanities, a little violence, some brief sexuality.)