May 25, 2018 Director’s Cut (Movie Review)
Crowdfunding has helped more than a few projects get off the ground, from the Bigfoot/Alien combo in Sightings, the neo-noir spectacle of Los Angeles Overnight, or the cannibal Christmas classic Mercy Christmas. But it is not just rising stars seeking their fortune through appealing to the fans: Penn Jillette, the talking half of magicians Penn & Teller, started his own campaign back in 2013 in hopes of turning himself “into a really bad guy” for the Horror film, Director’s Cut. As of Tuesday, May 29, 2018, Dread Central Presents will be bringing the film to VOD, with DVD and Blu-ray releases to follow on June 5, 2018. So, has MakePennBad.com succeeded?
The crowdfunding take for Director’s Cut was an impressive $1,164,928, not a bad chunk out of its estimated budget of $5,000,000. Certainly this was enough cash to prove that a lot of fans wanted to see Jillette become a movie villain. Written by Jillette and Directed by Adam Rifkin (The Invisible Maniac 1990, Detroit Rock City 1999), the film revolves around Herbert Blount (Jillette). Unhappy with the progress on a film he backed online, he decides to steal the remaining footage, kidnap its lead star, Missi Pyle (Galaxy Quest 1999, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story 2004), and finish the production his own way.
One thing is for sure, the DVD/Blu-ray certainly will not be worth picking up for the director’s commentary, as the film already sports lead character Blount providing commentary throughout; discussing events behind-the-scenes, who is playing who, and criticizing the film as it goes along. That is the film within the film, to be exact! He points out plot holes, continuity errors, and even has fun at the actors’ expenses. For example, he describes Harry Hamlin (Clash of the Titans 1981, L.A Law series) as being in films “because his wife is on a reality show.” He also adds digital edits, such as painting in his own credits during the intro.
Not that the film itself is any more serious without Blount’s additions. It starts off as a mock-commentary on a goofier take on 1995’s Seven, but it is not quite Angie Tribeca territory. It does have Tribeca’s Hayes MacArthur doing a similar spoof cop role as Hamlin’s partner Reed, but the film is not filling the screen with gags like Angie Tribeca or 1988’s Naked Gun, etc. Director’s Cut is more a springboard for providing Blount with things to riff about, be it MacArthur’s heralding of Pyle’s entrance or Hamlin vaping like there is no tomorrow.
Not that Blount is the smartest guy in the room: he is just the one calling the shots, and his shots show his own foibles. When he is not riffing or tweaking the stolen footage to show more of Pyle, he is inserting hidden camera footage of her in her hotel room. He is a desperate loser driven to desperate measures, and Jillette does a good job portraying that. Through Blount, he combines comedy and creepiness. Sure, his obsession with Pyle and his remarks may bring a smile, but it fades once it gets serious. For all the laughs, Director’s Cut shifts gradually from Mystery Science Theater 3000 territory to something closer to 1990’s Misery.
Likewise, Pyle, Hamlin, MacArthur et al, are entertainingly corny and over the top in the film footage. In turn, this makes their performances in the “behind-the-scenes” footage feel more real. They are not looking for scenery to chew, they are just wanting to finish their job and get away from Blount and his camcorder. The same goes for the technical quality, ranging from the film’s slick quality and CSI-like lighting tones, to cheap, fuzzy, night-vision filters of candid creep-cams.
But does it all come together to make an effective whole? Well, yes, for the most part. Jillette gone bad is a funny, sad, creepy figure. The cast put in an effective performance all around, and the camera and sound work all help add to the picture.
Therefore, Director’s Cut‘s biggest issue may lie in its tone, as it starts off going for the laughs, then bounces between producing smiles and making skin crawl. But it remains entertaining at either end of the spectrum. Just watch out for yucks as well as yuks. As such, CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.