As the latest horror-thriller “The Movie” explores, fandom certainly has a dark side, especially in today’s unhinged world.
Writer/director Michael Mandell makes his feature filmmaking debut with this take on letting fan worship get way out of hand.
Bonnie Root is stellar as Janet Gillespie, an actress whose career is in a slump.
One night, while home alone, the doorbell rings. A delivery driver named Walter (Jarrod Pistilli) has a large package for Janet.
Walter claims to recognize the actress and asks to take a selfie with her. As Janet allows this to happen, she unwittingly opens a door in Walter’s mind. For him, Janet seems welcoming enough to connect with.
The strange delivery man tells her of a screenplay he has written; one that “just happens” to be with him.
Moments later, Janet finds herself tied to a dolly, with Walter demanding to shoot his movie in her house, right now.
This obvious psycho wants Janet to star in his movie and is willing to let nothing prevent him from achieving his twisted goal. So begins a terrifying and life-threatening hostage situation for Janet during a vicious night where the actress must give the performance of her life to survive a night frought with violence.
While Root is very good with keeping her character grounded and giving the film an important dose of a realistic character, Pistilli is too much in his over-the-top style.
In a film such as this, it must be difficult for an actor to show restraint. One can forgive the tendency to overact, but there is too fine a line between a good psychotic performance and over exaggeration.
Unfortunately, Pistilli goes for the later and director Mandell allows it to happen, softening certain moments that should have been gripping and distracting the audience from the film’s intended commentaries.
It is obvious the filmmaker was going for a theme that speaks to how women in the film industry are treated and maybe, a dig at fanboy culture. There is gold to be mined there, but it often drowns under Pistilli’s unhinged performance.
The direction is far from subtle once Walter begins to explode, but it works well. As a filmmaker, Mandell finds a good balance between the beginning of the film (where everything is calm and somewhat humorous) and the point where the script is flipped, and the manic danger begins.
With Ricardo Jacques Gale’s camerawork matching Pistilli’s deranged performance, I focused my sights on Root and the well-written screenplay.
The two-character style is a delicate balance in film. Where there are many success stories (Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre”, Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, Tom Noonan’s “What Happened Was…”), the Horror genre is a tough place to bring off a picture with only two performers. Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” is probably the best example of how it can work within that world.
Mandell does well with his limited budget, keeping the film inside the house and (mostly) holding the tension created in the opening moments.
While the effectiveness of the piece is in constant battle with Pistilli’s performance, Root’s steady work, the screenplay, and Mandell’s dedication make the film work.
“The Movie” is a good genre picture that, ultimately, plays well.
Written & Directed by Michael Mandell
Starring Bonnie Root & Jarrod Pistilli
NR, 85 Minutes, Dr. Snaxxx