Behind the scenes footage of a horror maestro's latest film creates the narrative for a faux documentary on a murder of the film's lead actress.
It sounds all so familiar on paper. Mockumentary/faux documentary...check. Found footage...check. Footage surrounds a murder mystery...check.
Yes it all sounds so familiar, until you actually start watching Scott Feinblatt and Jeffry Chaffrin's latest flick Outtake Reel (Dervish Pictures and Backyard Films). Soon the potential comparisons and staleness fly out the window while an intake of freshness fills in as a replacement, providing a needed change from the norm.
The premise for this film is that we, the audience, are watching a documentary made by eccentric filmmaker Jonas Wolfschitz. He has taken a variety of footage collected from various sources to tell the story behind the murder of Ashley Swan, the lead actress of an unfinished horror project entitled My Brother's Keeper. Video sources include behind-the-scenes footage of Keeper, audition reels and personal video diaries, which are all exhibit material made available for the case of The State of California v. Thomas Grayson, the film's director who apparently is responsible for Ashley's death.
Throughout a majority of the film, the behind the scenes footage is our main narrative, filmed by Tom Grayson (co-director and producer Scott Feinblatt) fan and film making enthusiast Danny Wilson (co-director Jeffry Chaffin). Danny pleads, and flat out begs, his case to Grayson in order to force himself on the set to shoot a documentary for the making-of My Brother's Keeper, thus setting our story is under way.
In the first act, Grayson struggles with the notion of making a horror film that breaks all stereotypes. He wants an intelligent story while skipping on T-n-A as well as gore because he believes in his mind that he can make a great horror film without relying on the usual genre cliches.
A short time after principal photography starts, Grayson is already behind schedule and fires lead actor Joe (William Morse) for his lack of focus on the set. His dismissal up-shifts Ashley from humble to diva since an intimate relationship between the two seemed on the verge, leaving Grayson without the acting prowess he needs from his young thespian.
Meanwhile, Danny is essentially our eyes and ears to the whole show. At first, he comes off as a bit of a goofball, like when he tells Grayson that he needs boobs and blood to make a successful horror flick. In conjunction, he completely annoys Ashley only to wind up befriending her after Joe's firing. This is when Danny's behavior morphs from goofball to creepily peculiar and his role as a bystander turns into one of a lead player.
First, let's get the negative out of the way. The acting from Feinblatt and Chaffin is honestly not that strong especially during the first couple of acts. This is a problem because these two actors' lines comprise most of the film's dialogue. Feinblatt does a better job than Chaffrin, who was extremely irritating with his unbelievable line delivery towards the beginning of the film. However, two things need to be mentioned here:
1) One should never hold indie filmmakers to low budget restrictions especially in terms of acting
2) Feinblatt and Chaffin were successful in their main job of developing an entertaining story, since above all else, they are the directors and Feinblatt also multitasks as the producer.
To use a baseball analogy, that would be like offering major criticism to a pitcher who throws a shutout even though he does not get a hit in any of his at-bats. Pitching is his number one responsibility and only bats 9th to fill the lineup gap and that same logic applies to Feinblatt and Chaffin. Their main priority is to create an entertaining film and they accomplish that. The only other flaw with this film is lack of the Joe character. That character was great!
The positives are plenty. Reel is a fresh take on the found footage-esque films that have flooded the market. It contains an original approach where the story is played out through several video sources and not the usual mysteriously recovered footage rehash. There are also a lot of neat little ideas thrown in here, such as The Ashley Swan Memorial Fund ad and an interesting shopping spree at Home Depot. There is also a website telling the events leading up to the movie in the vein of Blair Witch/Last Broadcast, which is pretty well executed and should be checked out prior to watching the film.
More positives include the running time being satisfactory and Ava Santana. She is beautiful and nice to look at for the film's duration while effectively playing a multi-layered character. For the rest of the credited acting talent, let's just say that if you are simply watching this for Tiffany Shepis or Lloyd Kaufman, please understand that they are only in cameo roles. Kaufman's scene is great though and worth checking out!
Outtake Reel is currently being shopped around, so unfortunately there is nowhere to direct you to buy it just yet. In the meantime, check out: