Podcast #162: Field of Dreams (1989) & Dad Movies

Welcome to Episode #162 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss their dads’ favorite movies, starting with the Kevin Costner baseball fantasy Field of Dreams (1989).

00:00 Welcome

01:40 Crimes of the Future (2022)
08:22 Flux Gourmet (2022)
14:42 Brahms: The Boy II (2020)
19:56 The Shout (1978)

26:26 Field of Dreams (1989)
56:56 Seven Samurai (1954)
1:15:40 Dumb & Dumber (1994)
1:35:25 Tommy Boy (1995)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Vortex (2022)

Vortex is, by default, the most emotional Gaspar Noe film.  The eternally juvenile director usually only needles his audience for a single emotional response (shock), but his latest is unusually vulnerable & sentimental.  It’s still not an easy sit.  Euro art cinema veterans Dario Argento & Françoise Lebrun play an aging couple with rapidly declining health, suffering from heart attacks and dementia, respectfully.  Alex Lutz plays their frustrated adult son who is helpless to ease their suffering, both because of the inevitability of death and because of the day-to-day complications of his own life as a drug addict and a recently divorced father.  It’s a miserable display, but Noe doesn’t dwell on his characters’ pain & suffering the way you might expect him to.  There’s a sweetness & warmth to the doomed trio’s unstable life together that you won’t find in previous Noe films.  Climax felt like a career-high watermark for what his usual style can achieve, so it’s for the best that he followed it up with something new, something newly subdued.

Of course, Vortex would not be a Gaspar Noe film without a flashy visual device for the director to brandish for his audience’s awe & exhaustion.  In this case, he bifurcates the frame into De Palma-style split screens for the entirety of the runtime, isolating the geriatric husband & wife in two separate, cramped 4:3 boxes.  Like with all Noe films, you’ll either find the split-screen visuals to be a distracting gimmick or a stunning visual translation of the themes, depending on your generosity towards his intent.  There are moments when the choice feels purely arbitrary, like when Argento sits opposite Lebrun at their breakfast table, his arms stretching impossibly long across the screen like Mister Fantastic to comfort her.  Often enough, though, it feels like a genuine meditation on the way two people can live entirely separate, lonely lives in a shared space, something many long-term married people can relate to whether or not they’re nearing hospice.  Although the split-screen framing provides a rigid structure for the picture from nearly start to end, Noe does keep the moment-to-moment action fresh by having the three main characters swap frames whenever they’re in close proximity. It’s a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure experience where the whims & attentions of the audience dictate the shape of the movie they’re watching.  Noe also maintains his deafening sound mixing (this time applied to pedestrian noises like typewriter thuds, coffee percolators, heavy breathing, and urination instead of the usual sex & drugs & rock ‘n’ roll hedonism) and his thoughtful opening credits artwork (this time including contributors’ years of birth along with their names) to make his auteurist throughlines unmistakable even as his themes & subjects soften.

Conceived after he survived a near-fatal brain hemorrhage in 2020, it’s clear Noe’s pondering his own mortality here, along with the universal, devastating inevitability of declining health.  Watching an elderly couple strain to prop each other up as their hearts & brains wear out is a vivid enough reflection of that existential crisis, but I got the sense that the failings of the human body is not all that’s bothering Noe.  I’m not even sure it was his main concern.  He seems to be much more fixated on his characters’ connection to clutter & physical media than their connection to their physical bodies.  Argento plays an author & film critic, Lebrun a psychiatrist.  Their home is overflowing with books, movies, knickknacks, photographs, and other assorted junk – all evidence of a long life lived.  They’re often less concerned with suffering or dying than they are with being separated from their stuff, an anxiety that Noe grapples with sincerely & severely.  Even the shops near their apartment—groceries pharmacies, book stores, etc.—are cozy spaces cluttered with long-lingering objects from an old world that will vanish as soon as the people guarding over them expire.  Vortex is light on dialogue but never feels quiet, as the spaces it weaves through are impossibly noisy in their collections of cherished, worthless objects. 

If you want an excruciating nightmare about the practical, gradual ravages of dementia, Haneke has you covered in Amour.  If you want a heartfelt sensory immersion in the daily experience of the affliction, you already have The FatherVortex rests somewhere between those two distinctions, both brutally frank about the ugliness of a failing body and warmly sentimental about the loneliness & confusion of old age.  This might be a for-fans-only proposition as a result, as it’s more interesting as an evolution in Noe’s career (and the career of fellow director Dario Argento, who has never acted in a leading role before) than it is a contribution to the dementia drama as a genre.  It worked remarkably well for me in that context, even as someone who despised both Amour and most of Noe’s early provocations.  It also reminded me to clear the clutter in my home every few years going forward, so no one will have to deal with my dusty comic books & thrift store DVDs after I die.

-Brandon Ledet

Bill Arceneaux Appreciation Post: A Real Wet One

I was recently contacted by the enigmatic D.I.Y. filmmaker Wigwolf (who appears to be exactly what they sound like: a werewolf in a wig) about possibly reviewing their homemade gross-out comedy The Wet Ones on this blog.  I enthusiastically obliged, since we’re always on the lookout for genuine outsider art around here, and I recently had a positive experience reviewing the sub-Troma horror comedy Psycho Ape! through a similar solicitation.  The self-published DVD packaging & weirdo video-art aesthetic of The Wet Ones screamed out my name.  It turned out to be a siren call.  At 141 relentless minutes of Barbie doll savagery & video-warp psychedelia, it plays like an edgelord de-evolution of Todd Haynes’s Superstar, with 10x the shock value and none of the heart.  The Wet Ones is visually impressive as handmade serial-killer bedroom art, but it’s almost too belligerent to watch with the sound on, especially once you get to the dozenth repeated joke about female circumcision and getting “stabbed in the pussy” (which, surprisingly, does not take long).  Every cursed-doll character is voiced either like Lumpy Space Princess or Eric Cartman, with little variation between those extremes.  It recalls the similarly offensive-on-purpose Charles Manson puppet show Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, another idiosyncratic curio that’s best enjoyed projected on the wall at a party with the dialogue muted.  And I feel terrible for saying any of this; it’s such a low-profile D.I.Y. production that there’s no way to write about not enjoying it without feeling like I’m punching down.

Oddly enough, I had heard of The Wet Ones before Wigwolf reached out, thanks to coverage on local film critic Bill Arceneaux’s Moviegoing With Bill newsletter, which made it sound like one of last year’s can’t-miss oddities.  Returning to Bill’s piece on the movie, “Here’s to Those Wet and Wild Ones“, I can confidently say he did a much better job engaging with Wigwolf and Wigwolf’s art than I possibly could.  That’s because Bill thought to contact the director and ask pointed questions about their intent with this shit-smeared kaleidoscope, an interview that made me appreciate The Wet Ones more than I ever did watching it.  When ruminating on the film’s daunting length, Wigwolf explains, “The main obstacle I faced was that, since more than half the movie was improvised, the run time got really out of control. I hate to cut anything, but I did cut three full plotlines from the movie, and still ended up with a two-and-a-half-hour run time. I’m not good at editing myself and I’m also a troll so it was kind of funny to me to make something so loud, obnoxious, and unreasonably long.”  When explaining its purpose as a “challenging” provocation, they admit, “I figured the movie would be challenging, I mean you have to pay attention. There’s a lot in there about alienation and loneliness, I have strong feelings about how our society is right now and I get sad seeing so many people become alienated and disconnected. I’m obsessed with suicide and the feelings that lead to it and that runs through almost every frame of The Wet Ones. As silly as the movie is, it’s also an expression of sadness and disillusionment. […] I find all the beauty in the world through mistakes and imperfections, and distortions.”  That’s great stuff!  I highly recommend you read the full interview whether or not a tape-warp Barbie doll meltdown sounds like your kind of thing.

The Moviegoing with Bill newsletter is often where I first hear about low-budget, no-profile movies like The Wet Ones, even as someone who spends an embarrassing amount of their free time looking for bizarro new releases.  Just in the past few months, Bill has reviewed the titles Phony, Demigod, Tower Rats, The Secret Society for Slow Romance, and Straight to VHS, which I have seen covered nowhere else online.  It’s impressive.  What’s even more impressive is his enthusiasm for reaching out to D.I.Y. filmmakers & likeminded movie nerds about this kind of outsider art.  I’ve met Bill IRL and have spoken with him at length on our podcast, but only because he reached out to ask us what Swampflix is all about soon after we started publishing in 2015.  He’s a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic with paid pieces on sites like The Spool, Occupy, and Offbeat, so it’s surprising he would have any interest in our self-published digi-zine film blog.  And yet he recently nominated me for inclusion in the South Eastern Film Critics Association for my work with Swampflix, an honor I find bewildering.  Chances are that if you’ve made, screened, written about, or even just attended independent cinema in Louisiana (if not beyond), Bill Arceneaux has reached out to you online to see what you’re about, and whether you’re interested in collaboration.  And if he hasn’t, he’d probably love to hear from you.  That’s an invaluable impulse in our subcultural niche, considering how anti-social of a hobby it is to sit quietly in the dark to watch movies.  I imagine it’s even more rewarding for D.I.Y. filmmakers like Wigwolf, since self-publishing your art in our modern online hellscape is often just broadcasting into the void, with no one to answer back (or, worse yet, for some dipshit to review your self-made movie negatively even though it’s entirely harmless & avoidable).

There isn’t much of a point to this post besides encouraging anyone who engages with The Wet Ones to also read Bill Arceneaux’s interview with its creator.  It’s an essential companion piece.  And while you’re over on the Moviegoing with Bill page, go ahead and subscribe to the newsletter.  You’ll find tons of weirdo outsider art through that resource – some that will blow your mind, and some that will turn your stomach.

-Brandon Ledet

Episode #157 of The Swampflix Podcast: Denise Richards, Fake Cheerleaders, and Real Housewives

Welcome to Episode #157 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon and Britnee discuss all things Denise Richards, from her early roles as cheerleaders to her recent roles as cheerleaders’ moms to her iconic run on the reality series The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Enjoy!

00:00 Welcome

02:30 Barry Munday (2010)
05:40 The Girl Can’t Help It (1956)
08:40 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

14:12 The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

50:55 The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders (2019)
1:01:45 Killer Cheer Mom (2021)
1:08:55 Wild Things (1998)
1:16:00 Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex (1994)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Lagniappe Podcast: Wise Blood (1979)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss John Huston’s 1979 adaptation of the Flannery O’Connor novel Wise Blood, starring Brad Dourif as an atheist street preacher.

00:00 The Top 10 Films of 2021

08:35 The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
15:30 The House (2022)
19:13 Encanto (2021)
22:05 Ratatouille (2007)
22:40 Code 8 (2019)
24:12 Aftermath (2021)
25:30 Paradise Hills (2019)
30:40 Eternals (2021)
38:16 The Faculty (1998)
42:15 Scream 5 (2022)
45:20 Plan B (2021)
48:22 Language Lessons (2021)
52:50 Kung-Fu Master! (1988)
56:12 Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

1:01:35 Wise Blood (1979)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

– The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Swan Song (2021)

One of the most surprising frontrunners for 2021’s Movie of the Year is the culinary revenge drama Pig, in which a world-weary Nicolas Cages emerges from retirement & isolation to smite his rivals with the fine art of fine dining.  I personally related to Pig‘s kitchen culture critiques more than I expected to, especially as someone who put themselves through college by working back-of-house positions for most of the 2000s.  But what about people with no kitchen experience?  What if you’re a veteran of less macho service industries, like hair salons & drag clubs?  Don’t you deserve your own revenge-mission drama that’s quietly bitter about the changing world?

Yes, Swan Song is essentially Pig for bitter old queens instead of bitter old chefs.  Udo Kier stars as a gay-elder hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio, who’s dragged out of retirement for one final mission (and to square off against his nemesis in glamor, Jennifer Coolidge).  “Inspired by a true icon,” he’s known in his community as “The Liberace of Sandusky,” but he dresses & quips more like a small-town Quentin Crisp.  Reassembling his gaudy costume rings & 70s leisure suits like knights’ armor, he embarks on a heroic journey to spruce the hair of his wealthiest client as she lays in her casket, carefully burning every bridge along the way between his old life & a new—to his eyes—less authentic world. 

Unfortunately, this is a case where the character is much stronger than the movie that contains him.  Swan Song constantly distracts from its own antique glamor with attempts at a distinctly modern, Sundancey style.  Despite its shockingly expensive soundtrack, it’s shot with the same cheap, bland digi sheen that’s plagued most quirky character studies on Sundance’s docket in recent decades (although the film notably premiered at SXSW, despite appearing tailor-made for that fest).  Its story structure is so by the numbers that you halfway expect Tim Meadows to interject, “Pat Pitesenbarger needs to think about his whole life before he dresses hair.”  And the frustrating thing is that the character is solid enough of an anchor on his own that none of the movie’s failed attempts at style or poignancy are at all necessary.  In an ideal world, this would get a Sordid Lives-style spinoff sitcom where Kier & Coolidge wage war in competing hair salons across the street from each other.  I could watch them bitterly banter forever, even if everything around them tested my patience.

There is one major advantage Swan Song has over the other quirky character studies that continually ooze out of festivals like Sundance & SXSW: it has a distinct point of view.  Udo Kier’s bitterness about the changing world can sometimes feel justified, as when he laments “I wouldn’t even know how to be gay anymore” in frustration over cruising’s migration from bars to apps.  Sometimes, it feels pointlessly egotistical, as when he complains that younger generations should be “kissing his rings” for paving the road to their civil rights.  It at least has something pointed to say about the way community elders are often left behind by youth-obsessed gay culture instead of being properly revered & cared for, whatever the occasional limitations of that perspective may be.  It’s also amusing as a bitterly fabulous counterpoint to Pig, with truffles swapped out for vintage cans of Vivante hair gel.

-Brandon Ledet

Benedetta (2021)

Verhoeven is back, baby.  I was less than amused by the Dutch prankster’s outrageous rape comedy Elle—despite its broad critical consensus as a sharply observed satire—so it feels nice to rejoin the cheerleading squad for its nunsploitation follow-up.  Benedetta is part erotic thriller, part body-possession horror, part courtroom & political drama, and pure Paul Verhoeven.  It’s great! It’s a shame that the master provocateur has been relegated to scrappy indie budgets in his late career, though. It’d be a lot more fun to watch a mainstream audience squirm under his thumb instead of the self-selecting freaks who are already on-board with his blasphemy against good sense & good taste.  Even at 83 years old, Verhoeven is still raising neck hairs & eyebrows; he just used to be able to rile up an even wider audience with flashier budgets & celebrity stunt casting.  I mourn for a world where Benedetta would’ve been a controversial water cooler movie instead of an obscure reference that makes your coworkers think you’re a pretentious snob.  Even the small Catholic protests that have followed around the movie’s premieres in cities like Chicago & NYC like The Grateful Dead are living in a fantasy world where it will have any cultural impact beyond plumping up a few sicko film critics’ Best of the Year lists.  I enjoyed joining them in that fantasy for a couple hours during its brief theatrical run in New Orleans, but I do question the usefulness of a provocation that no one shows up to be offended by.

Like with all nunsploitation movies, whatever hoopla & headlines Benedetta will be able to generate will likely focus on its onscreen depictions of lesbian sex.  Verhoeven shamelessly indulges in that salacious aspect of his historical source material, but it’s not the main thrust of the film’s blasphemy.  The kinkiest his young nuns in love get is in fashioning a dildo out of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, which seems more like a circumstance of convenience than anything; sometimes you just have to make do with what’s lying around.  The real button-pusher here is the political rise-to-power story of the titular Italian blasphemer: a 17th Century nun who claimed to experience miraculous visions of Jesus Christ, resulting in a powergrab takeover of her small-village convent.  Benedetta’s political rivals are other local higher-ups in the Catholic Church who are both fearful of the power she wields among the villagers (claiming to protect them from encroachment of the Bubonic Plague) and willing to humor her blasphemy as long as it brings money & attention from the religious tourism industry.  The blasphemy is in how openly the movie takes Benedetta’s side in the battle, even while questioning whether her miraculous visions are genuine.  The second she arrives at the convent as a young child, she’s taught that bodily pleasure is an affront to God, that she should live in constant agony on Earth to honor Him.  Watching her claim to have an even more intimate relationship with God than her superiors, and that He said she should be allowed as many orgasms & daily comforts as she desires is delightfully transgressive, even if she’s flat-out lying about it.  Speaking as a lapsed Catholic with long-lingering issues with guilt & self-hatred thanks to the Church’s fucked up views on pleasure & morality, Benedetta is essentially a superhero to me.  I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess who the supervillain is.

As much fun as I had with Benedetta as political theatre, I still missed the slicker Hollywood budgets Verhoeven used to be afforded in his heyday.  The closest the film gets to recalling his 80s & 90s crowdteasers is in its illustrations of Benedetta’s religious visions, in which she fantasizes in-the-flesh erotic encounters as Jesus’s bride.  I was fully prepared for the film’s sexual theatrics & religious torments, but I was blindsided by its visions of Jesus as a sword-wielding warrior from a romance novel, riding into the frame on horseback to sweep his young nun-bride off her feet.  Unfortunately, the film backs off from illustrating those visions in its second half in a ludicrous effort to “play both sides,” questioning whether Benedetta was a shameless blasphemer or a true believer.  It’s fun to root for her even when you believe her to be a liar, but I still would’ve loved to see more fantasies of Jesus as a hunky heavy-metal badass with Fabio hair & glistening abs.  No one has depicted “religious ecstasy” so erotically since Ken Russell was still kicking around, so it’s hard not to feel a little let down when Verhoeven eases off that indulgence.  It’s also just a welcome return to the high-style genre filmmaking of his Greatest Hits, while the rest of the film is shot more like a muted costume drama despite the sensationalist story it tells.

There are parts of Benedetta that outraged me, from Catholicism’s reverence for Earthly anguish to the film’s own preoccupations with sexual assault & torture.  It’s also a movie that opens with several shit & fart jokes, just so you know it’s okay to have a good time despite its many discomforts.  Verhoeven’s been incredibly adept at that exact clash between cruelty & camp for longer than I’ve been alive, so it’s honestly just nice to see that he’s still got it.  I just find it shameful that we’re not throwing more money at him to offend & titillate on a larger scale.

-Brandon Ledet

The Night House (2021)

The movie is just alright, but Rebecca Hall is great: a tale as old as time.  I always hear that Hall is a powerhouse performer, but I’m used to seeing her play low-key, anonymous roles in genre movies like The Gift, Transcendence, and Godzilla vs Kong, where she tends to support instead of outshine the ooky-spooky monsters & ghouls at centerstage.  That likely says more about me than it says about Hall, though, since her fan-favorite performance as the titular role in the 2016 biopic Christine is widely available and I’ve yet to make time for it.  Luckily, The Night House is willing to meet me halfway by casting Rebecca Hall as the dramatic lead in a straight-forward horror film about a haunted house, wherein she’s the central focus of every single scene.  The movie itself is just okay, but her performance is fantastic, so I at least appreciated that it dragged me kicking and screaming into the Rebecca Hall fan club.

Viewed purely as a haunted-house movie, The Night House is only so-so.  It’s overloaded with exciting ideas, teasing tangents of Lovecraftian blueprints for a dark-magic home, silhouettes of ghosts formed by the negative space in architectural details, erotic foreplay with said negative-space ghosts, and a cursed netherworld that can only be accessed through lucid dreams.  Unfortunately, it’s frustratingly restrained in its execution of its most out-there concepts, only indulging in each for mere seconds before dragging the audience back to the dramatic reality they disrupt.  That dramatic core is yet another It’s Actually About Grief metaphor that has become so standard in modern horror, with Rebecca Hall being both physically & emotionally haunted by her recent suicide-victim husband.  In a decade, academics will have something smart & concise to say about why so many of our contemporary horror films are so fixated on the subject of grief, just as we’ve since explained away the early-aughts’ obsession with onscreen torture as a way to process American war crimes during the War on Terror.  In the meantime, there’s very little room for individual entries in the Grief Horror canon to have anything novel to say on the subject, so all The Night House can really do is create a spooky mood while repeating images & concepts you’ve already been exposed to many times before.  It is spooky, but I question if that’s enough of a draw considering how familiar its themes are.

The Night House is much more impressive as a showcase for Rebecca Hall’s screen presence, encouraging to flex her acting muscles in the same way the Grief Horror genre has already spotlighted Toni Collette in Hereditary, Elizabeth Moss in The Invisible Man, and Essie Davis in The Babadook.  Hall plays a wonderfully prickly, sardonic widow who refuses to wallow in the aftermath of her husband’s suicide, instead choosing to prod at who he was and why he decided to stop being.  She’s haunted both by the gun violence that ended his life—often finding herself hearing, touching, and Googling guns whenever her mind drifts—and by a spiritual presence in her now empty home, seemingly rekindling their doomed romance from beyond the grave.  Weirdly, the movie often excels most when it’s not indulging in supernatural phenomena at all, chronicling Hall’s investigation into her husband’s secretive life outside their marriage and her wonderfully icy responses to the polite but condescending rituals of communal consolation that accompany all funerals.  She’s hurt, she’s hurtful, and she’s fiercely opposed to the idea of fading away quietly after her marriage’s violent end, despite that feeling like the only path offered in her empty, cursed home.  The movie asks a lot of Rebecca Hall as its emotional anchor, and she holds it all down with ease.  It’s just a shame the movie around her couldn’t quite match her virtuoso performance with something memorable enough to make it a must-see entry in its genre.

-Brandon Ledet

Episode #146 of The Swampflix Podcast: Morgus vs Batman

Welcome to Episode #146 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Britnee and Brandon discuss New Orleans’s mad-scientist horror host Morgus the Magnificent and his unlikely influence on the original Batman movie.

00:00 Welcome

02:35 Gaia (2021)
07:00 Valentine (2001)
12:00 The Night House (2021)
15:40 The House of Exorcism (1975)

21:05 The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962)
41:47 Batman: The Movie (1966)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or by following the links below.

– Britnee Lombas and Brandon Ledet

Untitled Horror Movie (2021)

It makes sense that the next evolution in Scary Movie horror parodies would take aim at the “screenlife” genre.  The only other major developments in the past couple decades of horror filmmaking are much more difficult to mock in a joke-a-minute comedy:  the slow-moving dread of elevated “A24 Horror”, the politically conscious “social thrillers” that have followed in the wake of Get Out, the big-budget reboots of iconic horrors from foreign markets or the distant past, etc.  It’s not that our recent horror trends are unimpeachable; they’re just tricky to parody in any succinct, recognizable way.  Meanwhile, screenlife movies (found footage thrillers framed through the POV of a laptop screen) like Unfriended, Sickhouse, Spree, and Searching have very clearly defined aesthetics & tropes that can easily be mocked for cheap-shot humor.  As a huge fan of screenlife filmmaking as a distinctly modern aesthetic, I was stoked to see someone take aim at such an obvious parodic target.  That’s why it’s such a shame this early attempt at a screenlife parody is an unfunny dud.

Untitled Horror Movie is a COVID-era production in which five L.A. actors (all playing parodies of L.A. actors) separately filmed their contributions to a central script.  Those exact production conditions led to last year’s excellent British indie horror Host, which is clearly one of the very best films produced in the screenlife genre to date.  Meanwhile, Untitled Horror Movie does absolutely nothing interesting with the limitations of its production except to constantly point them out to the audience by casting actors as actors.  Instead of coordinating a clear, linear script between each contributor, the-film-within-the-film asks each actor to read the exact same lines as each other in overlapping edits that make no sense in tandem.  They’re supposedly collaborating on making a screenlife horror film together in their downtime between filming seasons of the fictional TV show that employees them, but their shared line readings imply they’re all playing the same character in the script-within-the-script.  When we take breaks from those screenlife horror samples, it’s only to hear actors squabble about agents, auditions, movie studios, and co-writing credits.  It’s all very lazy & confused, and I have no clue how recognizable performers (including Kal Penn and Never Have I Ever‘s Darren Barnet) were roped into something so uninspired while the best films in this genre are often populated by talented nobodies.

Maybe my issue here is that I’m looking for Untitled Horror Movie to joke about the tropes of its genre, when it’s much more interested in the lifestyle tropes of the vain, vapid L.A. actor.  Even then, the only performer that comes halfway close to being funny here is Katherine McNamara’s schticky exaggeration of the industry’s blonde-ditz archetype, and you can never get past the sense that she’s a poor substitute for Meredith Hagner’s performance as Portia on Search Party.  The only commentary it has to offer on screenlife genre filmmaking is to shoehorn the word “meta” into every other scene so that its premise and title appear to be much cleverer than they actually are.  The film-within-the-film is met with a bidding war between Lionsgate & Netflix for a robust distribution deal.  Meanwhile, this real-life movie was first presented in a livestream premiere and then sold its streaming rights to some sub-Tubi ad platform called Plex.  There is a ton of potential in the screenlife horror parody as a concept, and this leaves all of it on the table for something much less distinct.  Hopefully someone else scoops up the idea for a much funnier movie with a clear parodic POV.

-Brandon Ledet