A cautionary tale about the dangers of online anonymity, twisted true-crimer “talhotblond” focuses on an Internet love triangle in which one man killed his perceived rival, despite the fact that neither ever met their eponymous correspondent. Low-budget debut feature from L.A.-based multihypenate Barbara Schroeder builds suspense with an ingenious narrative device and solid cutting between multitudes of salacious instant messages and exclusive interviews. Unfortunately, the HD-cam docu’s visual poverty, clumsy score and sound effects, and clunky re-creations undermine the overall effect. A lock for further fest action, the Seattle docu prizewinner could attract smallscreen deals before heading to DVD.
Using the fictional device of post-death narration by murdered 22-year-old Brian Barrett, the docu introduces middle-aged killer Thomas Montgomery, a married father of two in upstate New York who obsessively frequented internet chat rooms under the handle “marinesniper.” He convinces “talhotblond” — who says she’s Jessi, a teen from West Virginia — that he’s an 18-year-old fighting in Iraq. When Montgomery’s deception is revealed, she provokes his jealousy by taking up with his workmate Barrett. Revealing interviews with Montgomery, the prosecutor, defense attorney, Barrett’s parents and most poignantly, Jessi’s father flesh out the facts.