The horror genre is tricky. It’s easy to fall into a dumb gory stories with random nudity and gallons of corn syrup. Some recognize this and poke fun at the stereotypes, and that is where Outtake Reel comes in. Do not mistake this quirky feature for a cut and dry horror or thriller or whatever you might think it is when you first start watching, Outtake Reel is sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, and sometimes a little over the top, but the best word to describe it is surprising.
The film opens with a representative of the "Ashley Swan Memorial Trust" explaining that the following footage was released from police custody to benefit Ashley’s family and to compensate them with the proceeds. This is similar in structure to the "Paranormal Activity" style of hinting that this footage was captured by actual victims, and does work well. Tom Grayson, played by co-director Scott Feinblatt, is a legendary horror film director who prides himself on avoiding those stereotypes. No nudity or blood and focusing more on a good story. It seems to be working for him, because aspiring documentarian Danny Wilson, played by other co-director Jeffry Chaffin, has decided to follow the making of Grayson’s new film in almost stalker-ish fashion. Lead actress for this new project, Ashley Swan, is a bubbly addition to this cast, but when she and Danny meet she is cold and indifferent to his pervy comments. Danny captures plenty of on set drama, but most of the first third of the film seems pretty irrelevant. Although some scenes are more expendable than others, it manages to hover around the border of boring without crossing over it. The real story line begins when Ashley finally opens up to Danny and they discuss her natural talent. Soon after she becomes very cold towards Tom and begins refusing to cooperate and even refuses an implied nude scene she had already agreed on shooting. After a frustrating shoot day, Danny invites Tom to Danny’s home where he has a "surprise" waiting for him. Tom sits down and witnesses on Danny’s television screen that Danny has kidnapped Ashley and bound her in the other room. Not Tom is faced with the decision of whether to take advantage of this illegal and immoral opportunity to film whatever horror film his heart desires against Ashley’s will, or to go get help.
It is hard to tell if this film should be labeled a horror, thriller, comedy, or a mockumentary, but it manages to encompass all of them in a surprising package. It’s not quite scary enough for a horror, but it contains the suspenseful elements of one, along with plenty of twists and turns. You never quite know who the real victim of any of this film’s shenanigans is, and even in the last 3 seconds you are hit with a surprise. This film never stops surprising. Surprise. Surprise. Get the picture?
The cinema verte style of the cinematography makes the handycam shaky style forgivable, and lends itself to the storytelling in most cases. There is not much need for editing because most scenes are long single takes. The acting is lacking in emotion in most cases and suffers of weak delivery, but is acceptable enough to not be detrimental to the overall film.
Overall this film is suspenseful, violent, and most importantly, tons of fun. If there is any underlying moral to the story it would probably be that it is good to poke fun at the stereotypes of cinema sometimes, and although you will never see a film like this on the silver screen at your local multiplex, this film is worth the $13.99 it currently costs for a limited time at outtakereel.com. It does not make a great edge of your seat date movie, but its a fun party film to throw on with your film buddies. The surprising twists make this film very worth the watch. And again… SURPRISING.