When delusional, overzealous (to put it mildly) movie crowdfunder Herbert Blount (Penn Jillette, who also wrote the screenplay) crosses the line from obsessed fan to creepy sociopath, it spells danger for popular actress Missi Pyle (playing herself and cop Mabel) and potential disaster for production of the police thriller Knocked Off. Director’s Cut, from and director Adam Rifkin, is the satirical comedy/horror tale of Blount’s journey between those two poles, a meta-based slice of absurdity that hits pretty much all of its marks.
After Blount contributes enough to the crowdfunding of Knocked Off to be given an executive producer credit and a line in the movie, he arrives on set with other contributors, where he makes it obvious that his passion for the project is eclipsed by his illusions of grandeur, among other psychological issues. He sees Pyle’s co-star Harry Hamlin as a threat, believing the actor sexually assaulted her, and feels that the cast and crew are inept. He finds a way to hijack the footage, kidnaps Pyle, and proceeds to make the titular version of the Knocked Off, complete with hammy acting along with beginner-level titles, process shots, and dubbing, to name but a few conceits.
What we, the viewers, see is Blount’s vision of what Knocked Off — a procedural film with horror overtones about a serial killer who mimics historical murderers — should be, complete with his running commentary, so in effect we are watching what would normally be a special feature on a DVD or Blu-ray. This is one of the send-ups of Director’s Cut, which also takes swipes at armchair filmmakers and fan culture, crowdsource funding (though, being a crowdfunded movie itself, the arrows are rarer and fired a bit more gently here than with other topics), and other Hollywood filmmaking elements.
Though the humor is spot-on more often than not, some gags wear their welcome out after a while, including repeated jokes of Blount’s ineptitude with editing tools. Director’s Cut is far more of a comedy than it is of a horror film, and the character of Blount never pushes hard enough on the villainous side to cause much tension, though hints of danger are definitely planted.
The leads are all fine and fun, with Pyle scoring the meatiest role and showing superb turns in each of the predicaments in which her character finds herself. Jillette plays his oddball villain convincingly, though there isn’t a great deal of subtle shading to Blount. Hamlin is a treat as cop Godfrey Winters, who vapes in just about every scene because of product placement. Hayes MacArthur is solid as Reed, the partner of both Mabel and Winters. Lynne Shaye is a blast as Captain Wheeler, foul-mouthed boss of the main trio. Many familiar faces turn up in cameos, and it would be a shame to spoil them here.
Director’s Cut is a satirical take on modern pop culture with a fine focus on filmmaking, vocal and obsessive fandom, and much more. It stops just short of stepping into full-on dark comedy, but it definitely knows how to leave viewers with a creepy feeling despite the laughs.
Director’s Cut, from Dread Central Presents and Epic Pictures, is currently available on VOD platforms and on Blu-ray/DVD.