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  Vicious Fun Fears Of The Fan Man
Year: 2020
Director: Cody Calahan
Stars: Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, Ari Millen, Julian Richings, Robert Maillet, Sean Baek, David Koechner, Alexa Rose Steele, Kristopher Bowman, Mark Gibson, John Fray, Joe Bostick, Kameron Louangxay, Earl 'Bubba' McLean Jr, Craig Brown
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joel (Evan Marsh) is a self-styled horror journalist who writes articles for Vicious Fanatics magazine, and more or less believes he could do the job of everyone he interviews far better than they could, and that goes double for the producer he is talking to tonight. This man makes his living with horror franchises, but Joel has seen enough of them to be able to pick out every cliché and example of idiotic behaviour on the part of the characters, so the producer asks him, well, what would you do for a chiller. Joel is glad he asked, for his big idea is the serial killer taxi driver - but what does Joel know about serial killers, really?

Producer and director (in real life) Cody Calahan already had encountered the nitpickers who go through horror flicks with a fine-tooth comb to highlight every example of illogical behaviour, judging by that introductory scene where there was a tone of point-scoring looming. But he was a smarter filmmaker than that, and had sufficient productions under his belt to know what he was doing and to have a sense of humour about it, hence this comedy where one of those horror journalists (as Joel insists on calling himself) who clearly thinks he knows it all is confronted with genuinely horrible villains and fights back in a display of incredible bravery.

Nah, he goes to pieces, of course, thus underlining the difference between enjoying a gory movie and meeting actual injury in reality: he has a habit of gagging or even throwing up when the blood starts to flow in front of his eyes, even before it starts to flow, come to think of it. If Calahan (who came up with the storyline, James Villeneuve scripted) was highlighting the suspicion that it's not the horror fans you have to watch out for, it's the genuinely aggressive and bad-tempered folks who could just snap if you rub them up the wrong way, despite any outward appearance of respectability, then it was well-portrayed here.

But if Vicious Fun had been all socially engaged moralising, it would not have lived up to its title, as at heart it was a ridiculous tale more in touch with the slasher movie world than the real one. As we have seen in the prologue, there are serial killers around, though not what you might expect as Carrie (Amber Goldfarb) demonstrates her own predilection for eliminating her fellow mass murderers who are unlucky enough to pick her up and suffer violently poetic justice. She shows up later on, but before she does, we follow Joel as he pathetically tries a scheme to get his roommate (Alexa Rose Steele) by exposing her new boyfriend as unworthy of her (Joel, naturally, believing himself to be very worthy of her). Somehow this winds up with him passed out in a bar paying for the cad's drinks.

But there's more: on awakening, he wanders into a self-help group in the wee small hours, where the topic is their recent antisocial behaviour, though they do not appear to be keen to break off from their issues. Yup, they are the serial killers, and Carrie is among them (as are David Koechner, Robert Maillet and Julian Richings), but they believe Joel is one too (he replaces the missing killer who we saw offed at the start) so he spins them his taxi driver yarn and they are impressed, or at least they are until the cad returns and reveals himself as Bob (Ari Millen), then most fearsome yet charming criminal of them all. The fact that the murderers are far cooler than our nerdy hero was one of the running jokes, for that is the way they are presented in horror fandom, so there could be a case this was biting the hand that feeds it, yet you would have to be familiar with these cliches to truly enjoy what the film was doing with them. Yes, it was recycling, but it was smart and very funny with it, so you could identify its targets while enjoying the way it knocked them down. Not bad at all, and superbly played, even the smallest roles getting a bit of business to shine with. Excellent eighties electro score by Steph Copeland (the film is set in that decade, of course).

[Premieres 29 June 2021 on digital platfforms **A Shudder Original Film.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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