Old friends reunite for a Christmas dinner party, but a playful fight about country music turns ugly when a dog’s death gets involved

When a group of old friends reunite for Christmas they bicker about country music and share harmless stories, but one story goes too far – a husband drunkenly reveals that he mistreated his wife’s dog. She gets her revenge as husband and wife engage in a full-blown fist fight. ‘The Eagles are a Country Music Band’ is a film that has us questioning right from the title, but it does do an excellent job at easing us in and discovering this group of old friends through their bickering. The audience is placed in a pleasant place trying to figure out where the story is heading and who it will affect. It’s only when an old truth comes out between a couple that we start uncovering the direction and who the main characters are – but just as you figure that out, bottle are already flying across the room.

Directed by Cody Wagner, the film was an idea that stemmed from a group of four friends Chloe Cuffel, Zack Campbell, Jordan Crabtree and Cody, that began a weekly “writer’s group” meeting. ‘The Eagles are a Country Music Band’ was their attempt to funnel resources into a project and produce something of a professional quality that also bore their unique creative stamp (realism, witty dialogue, and stylized violence).

In the ’93 movie Short Cuts, three fishermen find a dead woman in the stream near their campground and have to make a decision – what do we do? What they do is nothing. They continue fishing and tie the body to a rock so it doesn’t float away. When the wife of one of these fishermen finds out what her husband did, or didn’t do, she’s rightly disturbed.

One of the worst feelings a person can have, but a feeling that many of us experience, can be summed up in this phrase: is everyone pretending? Another way of saying it: does anyone care? If, say, your husband keeps fishing instead of pulling a dead body out of the river, you might experience this feeling.

The genesis of this short film began with the thought, “how do we capture that feeling of betrayal?” From that thought, we found specificity: a husband disrespects the corpse of his wife’s dog. As Chloe and I broke open the idea, we became more and more excited. Our conversation went something like this:

“Let’s not show what would actually happen, where she yells and cries, and he tries to apologize-”

“Yeah, let’s show what’s happening in her head. What she wants-”

“Let’s show her revenge fantasy!”

After our meeting, Chloe went away with a sticky note that said, “Make it funny. Make it bloody. Keep it to one location.” She was the abso-lute best writer for this project – her dialogue is natural, her depth of thought creates layers in her writing, and she loves action movies. When she came back with the first draft, the characters, the story, and the dialogue were even better than I had imagined.

So, why did we choose to go with over-the-top violence instead of sticking to realism? Chloe probably has her own reasons, but for me it comes down to: (1) we all have violent instincts, (2) we don’t want to act on those violent instincts (hopefully), therefore, (3) we need to play them out in safe, nondestructive ways. We’ve all felt betrayed by someone we love and felt the urge to bash their face in. When that action is played out on screen it means something other than mere violence. It transcends the violent act and becomes a communal experience. An internal fantasy that we all have becomes externalized in an over-the- top, fantastical way, and for that reason it becomes relatable, and most importantly, it becomes funny. If we can laugh at something, it stops having power over us. If we can share that experience with others, we can finally answer the question that’s been nagging us: no, not everyone is pretending. And yes, some people do care