Some filmmakers are really careful … almost too careful. Take OUTTAKE REEL directors Jeffry Chaffin and Scott Feinblatt (both who also star in the film, and Feinblatt is the writer). They’ve made a film that in this reviewers opinion is an out and out horror film, yet on IMDb.com it’s tagged as a thriller. What’s up guys? Are you two doubtful of the film you made? Well if you are let me put your minds at ease. OUTTAKE REEL isn’t only a 100% horror film, it’s a damn fun and entertaining one at that.
The film manages to do something that not many films are able to accomplish … it took me off guard. Before the film begins we’re told that, “The film is dedicated to Ashley Swan” and that this film is, “Brought to you by the Ashley Swan Memorial Trust.” I must have been in a naive mood last night but I immediately went online to look up who Ashley Swan was. Well of course Ashley Swan is the lead female character in the film (played by Ava Santana). Then we’re told that the State of California is using this film to make it’s case against director Tom Grayson (Scott Feinblatt). What we’re watching is the raw footage shot by Danny Wilson (Jeffry Chaffin), who was documenting the behind-the scenes footage of Grayson’s latest horror film My Brother’s Keeper. This is a really clever idea that was executed very well.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the tension that’s on the set of “My Brother’s Keeper.” Director Grayson is stressed out about his budget, about being way behind on his shooting schedule, and with his actors. Grayson is a bit of a horror snob and believes a real horror film contains no nudity, no gore, and no jump scares. Those are just amateurish tricks utilized by talentless, hack directors who can’t get any real scares. Then after he fires lead actor Joe (William Morse) he starts getting major attitude from lead actress Ashley Swan. Ashley essentially becomes a prima dona and starts getting very demanding and very bitchy. All these various tensions stress Grayson out until he just can’t take it anymore. Danny, the documentarian, recognizes this and sees this as an opportunity.
Danny is himself a frustrated director and begs, cheats, and pleads his way onto Grayson’s good side to be granted permission to film the behind-the-scenes footage for the DVD extras. Danny, who sounds a little out of place here (he sounds like an immature, stoner frat boy), decides to “help” Grayson out. His “help” involves kidnapping Ashley, tying her to a metal table, and taping her up so she can’t see, hear, or sense anything around her. He then brings Grayson over and shows him the film he shot of abducting and binding her to the table. He then looks at him and asks, “Mr Grayson … what would you do?” This sent a shiver down my spine!! Danny then forces Grayson to be involved in Ashley’s torture.
At first Grayson wants nothing to do with this and is genuinely sickened by Danny’s actions. But Danny won’t take no for an answer and holds him at gunpoint to stick around and have some fun. Danny decides to have some fun, all the while holding a gun on Grayson. After Grayson leaves the room in disgust Danny “finishes” the job by taking a chainsaw to Ashley. But Grayson’s had enough and ends up over-powering Danny. But things aren’t really as they seem. This has a really nice twist that I didn’t see coming and was extremely welcomed. After Grayson finds out what really happened he looses more of his grip on reality and the film then really spins outta control.
The acting is solid all around and especially strong from Scott Feinblatt (Grayson) and Ava Santana (Ashley). They do really great jobs and are very believable in their roles. I especially enjoyed Santana’s performance. Early in the film she comes across as very innocent and naive but by the end she becomes a pretty damn unlikable character that cares more about being “discovered” than another human beings’ life. And Feinblatt does a great job as an indie horror filmmaker who slowly goes off his nut and slips further and further into insanity. I really felt for Feinblatt’s character because at the end of the day he’s just a indie filmmaker trying to make a horror film his way and doesn’t seem to be getting any help from anyone around him. He’s frustrated, annoyed, stressed out, and quickly getting burnt out. He’s at his breaking point and something’s gonna give. It does and he lashes out at the people all around him. Great stuff.
Besides the solid acting this film is also built on really strong writing and a great pace. The film never drags and is never bogged down with superfluous sub-plots and meaningless diversions. It was a smart move keeping the runtime to a tight 75 minutes; this way the film stayed focused and really delved into the main characters. We also get some great cameos from some iconic indie actors. Tiffany Shepis plays an actress that replaces Ashley after her disappearance, and Troma Entertainment founder Uncle Lloyd Kaufman plays a cop that interrogates Grayson. Both are great and Kaufman puts in a show-stealing performance.
I know I sound like a broken record but indie horror is where the future of the genre lies, and it’s films like OUTTAKE REEL that prove my point. Sure it uses the “found footage” gimmick, but it does so in a unique and fresh way. Add to this solid writing and great acting and you have one fantastic film. The only thing that could’ve made this film more entertaining would’ve been more gore. Minor complaint this time because OUTTAKE REEL is a really fun film. Check this one out.
Directors: Jeffry Chaffin & Scott Feinblatt (Feinblatt is also the writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer