Review: ‘The Dirties’

Unconvincingly presented as a verite account of a student film project turned ugly, this sloppy, button-pushing black comedy reveals a crew desperately in need of counseling -- less in anger management than in the fundamentals of screenwriting, camerawork and structure.

Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers have used their creativity to get back at the jerks who bullied them. Slamdance grand jury prizewinner “The Dirties” takes it one step further, suggesting that a pair of movie-obsessed teens repay their aggressors first by making a documentary about their abusive behavior, and eventually by staging and recording their own school shooting. Unconvincingly presented as a verite account of a student film project turned ugly, this sloppy, button-pushing black comedy reveals a crew desperately in need of counseling — less in anger management than in the fundamentals of screenwriting, camerawork and structure.

Quoting “Pulp Fiction” and sporting “Elephant”-inspired T-shirts, amateur film buffs Matt Johnson and Owen Williams (abrasive and endearing, respectively, as “themselves”) amplify their outsider status by pouring all their attention into a class project about bullying instead of actually socializing with their peers. The mean kids oblige by shoving them into lockers and humiliating them oncamera. Even when the two aren’t filming, an unexplained crew follows them around, collecting shaky footage for an incoherent, mostly improvised meta-movie. When Matt snaps, it’s “homework eats dog” time, clumsily staged for the pseudo-doc’s benefit.

The Dirties

Production

Produced by Matthew Miller, Matt Johnson, Evan Morgan, Jared Raab. Directed by Matt Johnson. Screenplay, Johnson, Evan Morgan; story, Josh Boles.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jared Raab; editors, Johnson, Morgan; music, Jay McCarrol; music supervisor, David Hayman; costume designers, Paul Tjepkema, Derrick Gueren; sound designer, Alexander Aslund; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Matthew Chan; special effects supervisor, Tristan Zerafa. Reviewed on Vimeo, Los Angeles, Jan. 28, 2013. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Krista Madison, Brandon Wickens, David Matheson.

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