Director’s Cut (2016) [FrightFest 2016]

director-s-cutAn unhinged fan buys his way onto a film set by way of crowd funding.  Well into filming, he decides to kidnap lead actress Missi Pyle to force her to shoot his better version of the film which he has already started shooting without her knowledge. Writer Penn Jillette (yes, that Penn) and director Adam Rifkin create a cheesy cop film which is them overlaid and cut up with comments and scenes create by Jillette’s character Herbert Blount who fancies himself a better director than Rifkin due to all the learning he has done online.

The film is written and built in an interesting way where we get the basic cop film, a film about the behind the scenes, and also a film about the lead actress’ kidnapping.  The writing may be too meta for some and the humor will not work for all but both worked for this review.  They also build characters close to the cast and crew as persons as well as completely fictional characters.  Most of the cast of the cop film also plays themselves, except for Lin Shaye and very few others, adding a layer of complexity.  The layers and crosses of everything could easily have turned the film into one big mess but the writing and directing are done with care and talent, avoiding most pitfalls and creating and entertaining film.

The cast here is composed of experienced actors/actresses and people who usually are found working behind the scenes playing themselves.  Of course, the meatiest parts, the ones of actual characters and themselves went to experienced actors and actresses, with the exception of Penn and Teller who most don’t think of as actors but who definitely are performers.  They both give good performances in this film with Teller doing creep so well.  Penn Jillette as lead Herbert Blount plays crazy, delusional, eccentric, lunatic fan boy rather well.  Granted he wrote the part so he should be able to do great but his career being mainly performance based and not acting, it’s interesting to see him delve fully into his character, which of course was tailor-made for him.

Playing opposite him in scenes where she is “unaware” of it and scenes where he has kidnapped her is Missi Pyle who has perfected the mildly bitchy character which she brings out here until it’s time for her to be scared.  The way she switches easily shows that she has a good grasp on her acting and knows what she’s doing.  Of course, she also gives a good performance as her character in the film within the film.  In a smaller part but oh so needing to be noted is Lin Shaye as Captain Wheeler, the no non-sense boss at the cop station and Harry Hamlin’s cop character’s boss.  She goes all out once again and overacts just enough for the film she’s in.  This lady knows how to bring it.

The film is shot in an interesting manner with each type of scenes having their own style to help distinguish each part.  This shows versatility on the part of cinematographer Scott Wining whose shot of the fast food restaurant massacre is stunning and a beautiful example of a one-shot or one-sequence scene and how these can look.

Director’s Cut is a well-made film on the making of a film and the obsession of one man with a film and his most favorite actress.  It’s self-deprecating at times and meta while being a commentary on online fan boys and their access to celebrities, stalkers, and how everyone now thinks they can make a better movie on crowd funding. It’s a good look at the industry and some of its idiosyncrasies while being entertaining and well done.