I BLAME SOCIETY (2020)
Directed by Gillian Wallace Horvat
Written by Gillian Wallace Horvat, Chase Williamson
Starring Gillian Wallace Horvat, Keith Poulson, Chase Williamson, Lucas Kavner, Morgan Krantz, Alexia Rasmussen, Jennifer Kim, Devon Graye, Garrett Coffey, Jonny Mars, Macon Blair, Chris Doubek, Kerry Barker, Colleen Donovan, Megan Mercier, Jesse Merlin, Aaron Moorhead, Bobby Naderi, Samantha Sergeant
Aspiring filmmaker Gillian (played by writer/director Gillian Wallace Horvat) has hit a creative wall. She can’t get the attention of producers and feels as if no one appreciates the unique vision she feels she has to offer. When she receives what she takes as a compliment, that she would make a great serial killer, she takes it to heart and decides to set out to become one. At first, this is just a hypothetical situation, but the longer Gillian gets into this new project, the more dedicated she is to making everything seem authentic as possible. Gillian stalks victims, breaks into their houses, and plans to kill them, all while being filmed through her iPhone and her friend’s camera. But once Gillian crosses the line, she finds she really is pretty good at killing and getting better with every murder.
I BLAME SOCIETY would be considered a found footage film and while those types of films seem to have had its heyday, I still enjoy watching first person POV films when they are well done and it’s a good story. This definitely fits the bill. While there definitely is a lot of social commentary amidst Gillian’s gradual breakdown in I BLAME SOCIETY, the most fascinating and freshest aspects of this film come from this gradual descent and the psychological disintegration of our protagonist’s mind. It’s a believable descension into the depths as Gillian inches her way towards psychopathy and I found myself really enrapt in this journey from beginning to end as she begins stalking and planning, moves toward minor crimes like break ins, and until she eventually crosses that line she is unable to get out of. This path is extremely believable and more importantly, interesting and entertaining all the way through.
This is mainly because of the wicked sense of humor the film possesses. Gillian is a funny person. She’s quirky and dark. Instead of being appalled when she is called a good candidate for being a serial killer, she embraces it. She’s having a blast planning this thing and her enthusiasm is present in every scene she films. It’s because of this likability that this film works and I don’t know if many actresses would have been able to pull it off as Gillian does some pretty heinous things. There’s something about her line delivery when she whispers, “I’m living my best life.” while sipping her intended victim’s wine while she sleeps inches away, that comes off as infinitely charming, despite the morbidity of it all. I also loved the moment where in order to cheer herself up after becoming depressed with all of this killing, Gillian chooses to do a makeover video. It’s all so absurdly fun.
I found the psychology at play in I BLAME SOCIETY to be fascinating as well. The film begins with what really seems to be the inciting moment of Gillian’s descent when she confronts her friend Chase (played by genre actor Chase Williamson who helped co-write this film) about his toxic relationship with his girlfriend she has dubbed Stalin (played by PROXY’s Alexia Rasmussen). This awkward conversation is all captured on camera in the broad light of day and it really sets the tone for Gillian’s odd and off-putting demeanor while hinting at what horrors are to come. While Gillian doesn’t seem to want to admit it, she seems to care deeply for Chase (maybe even in an intimate way) and really seems insensitive as to what this revelation that she wants to film her planning on killing her (hypothetically, of course) might do to him. Later, it’s equally fascinating how quicky Gillian falls into deviant and dangerous behaviors as she begins walking the streets in search of victims, having unprotected sex, drinking more and more, and of course, upping her kill count. Never once along the way does it feel there’s a crazy leap. It all feels gradual and constant, watching a broken person tragically slide into despair.
The way I BLAME SOCIETY addresses some of the more hot button gender politics of the day is pretty interesting as well. There are a few scenes where Gillian meets with a pair of male producers who use the same buzz words like “strong female lead” and “intersectionality” over and over that really do shed some light on the real way “enlightened” Hollywood is trying to “adjust” to accommodate female filmmakers by basically wanting Gillian to put her name on projects made by others in hopes to get “woke” cred. These scenes are wonderfully meta in that it highlights just how shallow Hollywood really is, as if anyone doubted it in the first place.
I was less concerned with following my usual fount footage questionnaire that tests the authenticity of a found footage film as this is a film being produced by Gillian, so the occasional presence of music, edits, and production didn’t really bother me. The film wobbles toward sthe end the darker it gets and while it addresses the fact that Gillian is becoming less likable, it doesn’t stop her from actually getting less likable the worse her murder spree intensifies. There are a few missed moments I feel never really got wrapped up like some kind of resolution between Gillian and her slacker boyfriend, but overall, this is a consistently entertaining film that isn’t afraid to go dark when it needs to. While the bloodletting is at a minimum, there are some pretty disturbing scenes despite the laughs. I BLAME SOCIETY is a witty and wry take on how dreams of stardom can quickly and easily become murderous nightmares if you aren’t careful.