As with most screeners, I know very little about the film before I hit play. It’s nice to watch a film without the tainting that comes from often large and inundating ad campaigns. It’s almost pure that way. You go in with no preconceptions.
Auteur was no exception.
The latest release from writers James Cullen Bressack, JD Fairman, and Michael Sean Gomez, directed by Cameron Romero, was assumed to be an effort in horror but other than that I knew little else.
Admittedly I was quite confused at first. The film quality didn’t seem polished and it led you to believe it was some sort of a documentary (it isn’t). I flipped back and forth between the film and an email I had received prior to obtaining the screener, which had (limited) information about what I was viewing, but I kept hoping for some insight as to whether or not this was a work of nonfiction (it’s not) or a dramatization of true events (nope). It played out similar to a cross between an E! True Hollywood Story and an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It may sound cheesy, and I don’t mean this as a slight to Auteur, it’s just a point of reference I found myself making. Nonetheless it was quite entertaining and the fact that an unknowing viewer could believe it is a true story makes it more compelling.
It’s the story of a director trying his hardest to make a film anyone will care about by trying to find details about the mysterious disappearance of a director who was on top of the world before seemingly falling off the edge of it.
B.J. Hendricks plays Jack Humphreys, a self-proclaimed failed documentarian, who very selfishly feels he can build a career for himself by tracking down Charlie Buckwald (Ian Hutton), a former in-demand director who disappeared after filming his highly anticipated feature, Demonic. It speaks, both literally and figuratively, to the pressures put on the stars, the has-beens, and the never-was in Hollywood to perform or continue to perform at high levels, and the lengths some are willing go to become or stay relevant. I’d be remiss to not mention the show stealing Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), who acts in many ways like the moral compass tending to the on-screen guide to the aforementioned pressures.
Humphreys investigates the situation with the finesse of a bull moose in a china shop. He interviews cast, crew, and people close to Buckwald while irritating most of them. Add in the fact that his methods are childish, grating, and he’s for the most part unlikable, and it’s very apparent why he’s a “failed documentarian.” You feel far more sympathetic for Buckwald but ultimately as it unfolds, you don’t feel sorry for either of them when you find out what is waiting right around the corner.
I don’t want to give too much a way, as the unraveling is what makes the film compelling, but there are definitely “demonic” things at work here. By the end, this film really hits it’s stride hard and leaves you feeling it was much too short(running time approximately 75 minutes), and I would say that’s a good thing. It is definitely back-loaded however, so if you are contemplating turning it off, DON’T! The payoff is there, just be patient.