RIIFF Movie Review – Un-Real

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Starring: Sean King
Director: Paul Natale
IMDB | Official Site

Remember my recent complaints about horror movies about horror movies? Well, this is one of the movies that set me off.

Un-Real is the story of a amateur horror filmmaker whose terrible, crappy movies keep getting rejected by festivals. After one festival director tells him that the laughable effects in his latest film just don’t look real enough, the filmmaker decides to create the ultimate in verité by going to the site of the festival and killing all the theater’s employees while filming.

Got it? Good, ‘cause that’s all there is to get. This is a slasher movie with someone taping the kiling.

There’s no particular plot, no real point (after all, the film itself shows us how bad the filmmaker’s movies are. Given this, how can we possibly sympathize with him?), no real characters.

There’s just a lot of pointless killing.

What makes Un-Real worse is that it’s a movie about a filmmaker by (of course) a filmmaker, both making horror movies. Fair or not, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that the nugget of this story came to Natale after one of his films was rejected by a film festival.

Now, any creator who’s had work they thought was good rejected by someone who they felt didn’t understand the work can sympathize with the anger and frustration that comes with the rejection slip (and I speak from personal experience). But that doesn’t mean that the anger and frustration is a good topic for a movie (or a story or a comic or whatever).

Rather, it’s a bad idea and when the audience maps the main character onto Natale himself (again, whether this is right or wrong), it’s also a little bit embarrassing.

That people really seemed to like this movie is just another illustration of the low standards and lack of critical judgment that horror suffers from.

Natale is an able director and cinematographer. Hopefully he’ll hold himself to a higher standard for his next film and come up with something better.

(Updated Dec. 5: A note from Paul Natale informs me that this is his first film and therefore not based on any personal experience. As I said in the original review, drawing that conclusion wasn’t necessarily true or fair, but it was tempting. Still, it’s good to hear from Natale on this point. Thanks, Paul.)

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