FrightFest review – Mean Spirited

My notes on Mean Spirited

Another in this year’s blip of horrible-influencer/vlogger-gets-got movies – certainly, the zeitgeist is working off a great deal of built-up resentment, scorn and despair in this cycle of pictures.  A big problem is that before we get to the come-uppance, we have to have an hour or so of obnoxiousness.  Director/star Jeff Ryan, who also co-wrote with Joe Adams, does have an interesting, slightly different set-up here and embedded in the usual found footage, spiel-to-camera business is a neat, nasty little story about childhood friends who have gone in different directions but don’t want to let go of anger.

Andy (Will Madden), perpetually under a baseball cap, hosts an online channel of stunts, pranks, snark and general assholery.  His crew consists of ‘one of the guys’ girl Joey (Maria DeCotis), up-for-anything slob Dew (Will Martin), and putupon tagalong Tom (Daniel Rashid), who shows up for the road trip/shoot with an unfeaably out-of-his-league new g.f. Nikki (Michelle Veintimilla).  A VHS clip from the past – it looks like the ‘80s but ought to be about 2000 – shows that Andy got in on this trend early with a videoed prank that subjected his school best friend Bryce to the sinister, perhaps diabolical mercies of sterotypically angry neighbour Frank (Neville Archambault, the Michael Ironside lookalike of The Block Island Sound and Slumlord).  Bryce and Andy stuck together for the beginnings of the jackass-type action but Bryce (Ryan) has gone Hollywood and become the star of a superhero franchise (Thunder Man).  Bryce has invited Andy to his posh, minimalist, isolated new home, ostensibly to reconnect – but Andy, seething with envy, plans on making (and, indeed, staging) an exposé of his sellout ex-buddy.  Of course, Bryce also has a hidden agenda – which gets into darker areas – and the others in the gang all get warped or tormented in unexpected ways.

It’s very good on microaggressions that pile up into macroaggressions – and you come away with a real sense of how these people have been needling each other all their lives – and takes care with the fringe figures, so that the gross-out fun guy Dew and the not-quite-as-grounded-as-she-seems Joey fit into a pattern that eventually becomes a Satanic symbol.  It could have played as an indie drama without the horror/magic elements, but the genre stuff gives the found footage meandering some shape.  There is still the issue that it’s a big ask to put up with a complete tosser like Andy for more than the length of a youtube clip … even if suitably Bad Things happen to him in the end.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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