Los Angeles is littered with aspiring filmmakers, some talented, while others maybe not so much. One can imagine a big fish in a little pond moving out West to discover the pond got a whole lot bigger. The resentment, especially for those whose ambition far outweighs their creativity, spreads until it sucks all of the smoggy oxygen out of the city.
In this cesspit, we meet Gillian Wallace Horvat, playing a version of herself, who can’t understand why nobody will let her direct a film. I’ve known some “Gillians” myself, and can attest to the veracity of what she presents here. We meet her in the middle of filming a documentary with her friend Chase (Chase Williamson) as she describes her diabolical concept. She’s been told, she informs her pal, that she would make a great murderer, and she lets Chase know his girlfriend, who she claims is a terrible person, would make an excellent victim as she documents her journey to becoming the best serial killer ever. Understandably offended, Chase ends the friendship, but Gillian won’t stop hurling towards her destiny. Slowly building up to her first kill, she first stages petty thefts and break-ins, but when an unfortunate accident leads to someone’s death, Gillian needs to chase that dragon more and more.
While sitting comfortably within the “mockumentary slasher” genre, Horvat has bigger satirical fish to fry. By playing her character as someone who’s entitlement, delusions and inability to accept criticism far outstrip her skills while also scoring points by addressing the rage a female filmmaker feels within a male-dominated industry, Horvat packs a lot into a simple concept. While always a compelling watch, she stumbles on this very meta idea by presenting herself as someone so thoroughly unlikable that it’s difficult to care about her. Admittedly, Horvat has done so intentionally, giving us this sociopath with little self-awareness, but she’s so good at being terrible, that I can understand why some will shrug this off as an annoying experience. Who wants to be around a horrible friend who overshares and only serves to make you feel awful?
As a sucker for the idea, however, I gleefully followed her wherever she was headed. Her frequent kills, while satisfying the gore crowd, didn’t really satisfy me as much as the highly relatable scenes Gillian has with her ineffectual agent, seen only as an ear on a FaceTime call, or with two young producers (a note-perfect Lucas Kavner and Morgan Krantz) who try to use her for cheap labor while throwing out words like “diversity” and “intersectionality” (hilariously mangled as “intersexuality”). It would have been enough for Horvat to simply focus on the stumbling blocks women face in the film industry, but the killing spree aspect makes it more commercially viable. Clearly, she knows this world and the realities of what it takes to get a film made. She takes on a lot of self-reflexive notions, though, resulting in a seven layer dip with perhaps two layers too many. You want to root for an under-represented person, but not THIS person!
Still, Horvat has made a highly original film which maintains its concept right up to the very, and very bloody, end. I love a badass antihero, but her skills as the filmmaker character (those hand-cranked dolly shots seem like a particularly bad idea!) don’t make you want to see more. In speaking of Horvat, the real filmmaker, I most definitely do.
By Glenn Gaylord, Senior Film Critic
I Blame Society is currently in select theaters and streaming on demand at the usual outlets.