TV actors make a found-footage movie about actors making a found-footage movie. Say what?
As unbearable as that elevator pitch may sound, the end result is surprisingly watchable. Untitled Horror Movie, whose title is the perfect mix of self-aware pretension and obnoxiousness, knows exactly what it is. Nick Simon‘s movie doesn’t try to feign greatness or break new ground. Instead, it tries to make its mark in the divisive horror subgenre by marrying the obvious tropes with the embittered attitudes of entitled, young actors. Not everything is successful, but there is some fun to be had here.
It all begins with six actors — from what honestly sounds like the worst TV show — wondering if their jobs are safe during a hiatus. One of the stars however, Declan (Luke Baines), learns the show is essentially cancelled at this point. In the meantime, the writer of the group, Kip (Timothy Granaderos), has been writing a screenplay for a potential horror movie, and he’s had his fellow actors act it out. With no idea if they have a show to go back to, the six go ahead and shoot Kip’s movie in hopes of selling it somewhere. They then get the idea to use an ominous pendulum necklace as well as a spell they found online in the story. As expected though, the idea backfires because an evil presence has been summoned, and it is now stalking the group, one by one.
Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is why desktop movies surged in popularity for such a short amount of time; horror especially capitalized on the idea with Host being the most foremost example. Untitled Horror Movie sadly missed its small window and already feels dated. Be that as it may, the story avoids talking about the pandemic at length or in detail, so that’s refreshing given the doom-scrolling so many of us became accustomed to in the last year. Because above all, Simon and co-writer Baines’ movie at least tries to have some irreverent fun when everything else at the time feels like the exact opposite.
The story of a dark spell gone awry won’t strike much of a chord or instill fear in viewers, but the interactions from the difficult characters will induce some chuckles. Between making fun of Kip’s sleazy, new ‘stache and Kelly’s (Claire Holt) utter narcissism, Untitled excels when it comes to biting characterizations and sendups of young Hollywood actors. Watching the characters attack each other’s shortcomings or be completely oblivious to their own similar failings is more entertaining than the demonic entity in the room. That might be fine for a comedy, but this is a horror movie — shouldn’t there be more tension? Although the supposedly scary scenes aren’t dull, they don’t excite. You could say this is the movie’s own way of criticizing the many anemic and stilted frights of found footage, yet that may be giving it too much credit.
As a horror movie, Untitled won’t leave any marks on the genre. It’s its ability to satirize Hollywood conceit and knock privileged and puffed-up actors down several pegs that will keep audiences mildly amused. If you go in expecting some scathing and extensive friction between frenemies amidst a generic story about evil spirits, you might enjoy this strategic comedy a lot more.