Tuesday, September 26, 2023

everybody dies by the end

Ryan Schafer and Ian Tripp's cheeky, irreverent Everybody Dies by the End is an interesting fusion of mockumentary, found footage and the fictional snuff film of horror lore. The beginning--a retro-tinged Charlie Rose-esque talk show with play-it-unwaveringly-straight Bill Oberst Jr. as host interviewing wily, bloviating horror filmmaker, Alfred Costella (Vinny Curran, to his credit, he is doing so much that he often feels like he's also the director of this whole movie)--sets the tone, and also gages how patient one will be with what's to come (very shouty, see-sawing, and farcical). The movie settles in rhythm, with a making-of-horror-movie within, set in a ramshackle, desert atmosphere, with Costella swirling cultish energy out of his frenzied skeleton crew (all decked in matching red Hawaiian shirts)--berating them, or pumping them up whenever they feed his ego. 

The creators, scrappy cast and crew punch out a version of what must be momentous pressures of indie filmmaking with a spirited attitude through the lens of horror. Much credit should be given to the editors Tripp and Joshua Wyble, who help move things along, cleverly (and "invisibly") cutting within scenes and also between set-ups and mock interviews. The film has a fantastic idea at the core (including the lengths one goes to for "practical effects"), but the broad comic sweeps consistently miss and become exhausting to behold. I could imagine a compelling avenue for a remake: If enacted quietly sly, could this be a pretty upsetting, Cronenbergian experience? But this movie chomps after the perils of excess.

Out of the overly amped ensemble, the most attachable performance that emerges is also the most unassuming. Iliyana Apostolova plays the secondary horror tale's lead actress Alison and gives refreshing, much-needed subtleness in the midst of so much blathering. She exudes an empty earnestness that feels authentic while remaining humorous and endearing. That is why once the sound and fury of Costella creeps in, pushing her harder to the brink, her experience becomes one of the film's more unexpected elements of dread. **


-Jeffery Berg

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