What Kind of Movie Is The Movie?
James Jay Edwards reviews The Movie, a film written and directed by Michael Mandell, and starring Bonnie Root and Jarrod Pistilli. (Gravitas Ventures)
Calling your movie The Movie is a risky proposition. Finding the website on the internet, or even finding the correct title on sites like IMDB or Letterboxd will be tough, simply because of the number of films that use the phrase as part of their title (Superman: The Movie; Jackass: The Movie; Paw Patrol: The Movie). Besides, what would a movie called The Movie be about, anyway?
(The Movie, theatrical release poster, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)
This The Movie is about a washed-up actress named Janet Gillespie (Bonnie Root from As the World Turns) who receives a ring of her doorbell one night. A delivery guy named Walter (Dollar’s Jarrod Pistilli) is there with a large package. Janet is suspicious, since she didn’t remember ordering anything of that size, but she lets Walter bring the big box inside. That’s when Walter recognizes Janet and pitches his screenplay to her. She politely declines to be in his movie, but Walter won’t take “no” for an answer.
The brainchild (and feature film debut) of writer/director/producer Michael Mandell, The Movie has a strangely creative premise. It’s one of those polite home invasion movies along the lines of Funny Games or No Good Deed where the villain talks his way into the home instead of forcing his way in. It’s a terrifying thought, and one that The Movie exploits fully.
(The Movie, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)
Unfortunately, the premise may be the only aspect of The Movie that is creative. Once Walter is inside, he torments and ridicules Janet mercilessly. However, his technique is not subtle nor seductive at all. He takes more of a strong-arm approach, but it’s hard to take him seriously because the character is so corny. Jarrod Pistilli is either the greatest at acting like a bad actor or the worst at being a good actor, and it’s tough to tell which because Walter is, after all, an amateur filmmaker and actor. It doesn’t help that The Movie’s music is whimsical and simplistic, like the characters are going to break into song at any second.
About halfway through, The Movie’s point does become clear, though. That’s when things get really dark, and Walter reveals the depths of his depravity. It turns into a torture flick, with Walter performing unspeakable acts on Janet in order to convince her to do his bidding. For the entirety of the movie, Janet is uncomfortable, but at this point in the movie, the audience becomes just as uncomfortable. It’s a tough watch, but not for the reasons intended.
(The Movie, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)
As a torture flick, the ideas are there, but The Movie does them half-way. It’s sort of like Hostel-light, with a lot of perceived violence, but very little actual harm. Most of the film’s special effects budget seems to have been used on one single shot, which is fun, in a gooey, latex-and-corn syrup, student film kind of way. And that’s about the extent of the torture, aside from some obvious (sexual assault) and not-so-obvious (forcing Janet to watch him defecate) instances. As a torture flick, The Movie doesn’t go far enough. If its true purpose is to shock its audience, it’s too tame.
Michael Mandell’s strength as a filmmaker lies in his ability to get the most out of what he has. The Movie is a simple production, taking place in a single location over the course of one night. It unfolds almost like a stage play, with just the two characters playing off of each other, each trying to one-up the other; Walter trying to get his movie made while Janet just wants to survive the night. Concentrating on the psychological aspects of the situation would have provided a more satisfying movie. Of course, so would have going for broke with the blood and guts. The Movie doesn’t pick a side.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Funny Pages Is a Raw and Emotional Coming-of-Age Story
- George Miller Does Aladdin in Three Thousand Years of Longing
- Bodies Bodies Bodies Is a Whodunnit in Slasher’s Clothing
So, what kind of a movie is The Movie? It doesn’t seem to know itself. There’s a select group of horror fans that will love this movie, but most may just find it wandering in the middle.
The Movie is now available on VOD.
Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.