OUTTAKE REEL (2010)
Directed by Scott Feinblatt and Jeffrey Chaffin
Tom Grayson (effectively played by Scott Feinblatt, who also co-directed, wrote and produced) is a disgruntled horror filmmaker who prides himself on purity in films, purposely stepping away from the typical gore and nudity elements found in most horror films. While working on his latest, “My Brother’s Keeper,” problems with the lead actress rise almost immediately. Tom and Ashley Swan (Ava Santana – HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY) do not mesh well at all. She’s upset because he let an actor she adored, Joe (William Morse), go from the production, and possibly felt guilty as it was mostly her fault he’d lost his role. Despite having bared all in past films, Ashley refuses to perform in an “implied nude scene,” with the intent of using passive-aggression to force Tom to bring Joe back. She’s a typical diva who expects to have a hold over everyone on set.
Danny Wilson is an irritating schmuck played by co-director/editor Jeffrey Chaffin, who literally forces himself on the set, using his obsessive documentarian skills to con Tom into letting him film a behind-the-scenes documentary. Danny is imposing, to say the least. However, he proves to Tom that his presence is necessary as he is the eyes and ears of the production. He decides to fix the situation with the lead actress all by himself, kidnapping her and leaving her tied up in his garage. Danny cordially invites Tom over to his place, where he shows him what he’s done. While shocked and worried about Ashley’s welfare, a part of Tom couldn’t deny his interest in her truly horrified reaction while being tortured with a cattle prod – behavior that he couldn’t pull out of her when he was behind the director’s chair. He’s torn between his directorial ethics and the excitement of extracting real terror through cinéma vérité. Once this simple premise is under way, the plot thickens and throws a few curveballs the viewer’s way.
The entire film is composed of various segments of video footage found after the appalling events transpired, used as courtroom evidence in the State of California vs. Thomas Grayson. This type of filmmaking allows the viewer to experience voyeurism without the usual filler in standard cinema – no lulls, just cuts right to the relevant stuff. We see how the characters came into the picture, the strained relationships that rapidly unraveled, and how it all went down. The last moment we’re granted access to is Grayson’s comical police interrogation scene, with the cop being played by none other than the great Troma king, Lloyd Kaufman!
The acting in OUTTAKE REEL is definitely up to par, with solid performances all around by the cast. Really liked Nadiah Altassan’s “Lennie Goodman” character, as the loyal production assistant. If there’s anything to criticize, Chaffin’s portrayal of Wilson felt the least sincere with his awkwardly light-hearted sarcastic tone. Ava Santana did a phenomenal job braving a compromising position during the topless torture scene, and Tiffany Shepis has a humorous cameo in the audition footage for Ashley’s replacement near the end as well! The score is mostly non-existent, being found footage and all, but when present it’s a bit harsh at times, adding to the tension peaking during the latter half of the film. The sporadic use of music works really well, as overuse would have betrayed the idea that this footage was supposed to be genuine.
The woes each horror director endures when deciding which ethical path to travel can be a stressful nightmare. How does one keep shock value fresh without crossing the line? It’s a balancing act that can either push a director into having complete control over a project or descending into a personal madness. Feinblatt’s decision to explore this question keeps this film a step above most indie slashers lacking this type of psychological exploration.
Extras include: Deleted scenes, stills, behind-the-scenes footage, trailers and a great blooper reel with Lloyd Kaufman getting lovably crass! Unfortunately, the eye-catching dvd cover image of an unclothed woman wrapped in film is not in the movie, but hey, it’s great advertising!