THE DIRTIES is the latest film presented by Kevin Smith’s Movie Club (AKA Smodcast Pictures). Regardless of what your feelings are about Kevin Smith’s own work, much props needs to be given to the man for bringing a truly powerful independent film the attention and reach it might not have otherwise had received without Smith’s brand behind it.
THE DIRITIES is a Canadian dramady about two movie-obsessed teens who become more and more preoccupied with planning a school shooting as they work on a project for their film class. Although the movie has the structure and appearance of a found footage movie, the film brilliantly uses the clichés and trappings of the format to explore mental illness, isolation and obsession. THE DIRTIES is not just a chilling and surprisingly funny film – it’s also a wake-up call for both bullies and the bullied.
Matthew Johnson stars, co-writes and directs the film and he obviously has a bright future ahead of him. The movie has at once both the charming naiveté of youth and the insightful wisdom of somebody who has spent a lot of time in self-reflection. Johnson stars as Matt, a hyper-active and socially-awkward high school kid whose life is spent in constant homage to the films he loves. From impressions to quotes to visual call backs, Matt is incapable of producing a single action or thought that is not a reference to a film. Perhaps this is why – when he and his friend Owen find themselves picked on by a group of bigger kids nicknamed The Dirties – Matt resorts to one of the biggest, and most unfortunate, clichés imaginable – planning a school shooting.
Johnson does something unthinkable – he creates a film that actually manages to illicit deep and entrenched sympathy for true monsters. Matt is a dork but he’s a dork many film fans are entirely too familiar with. That level of familiarity that so many audience members will have with Matt makes it extremely unsettling to watch the dark path Johnson sets his character down as the movie progresses. Watching that journey, though, is vital – THE DIRTIES is a movie that, though the use of a clever narrative structure – shines a light on the very real emotional consequences of school bullying. Under the guise of a teen comedy, THE DIRTIES manages to speak with the voice of a lion – exploring the tangled web that exists between victim, bully and the clueless friends, teachers and neighbors who pave the way for bad things to fester and become tragedies.
On the surface, THE DIRTIES is a very solid film that hints at a filmmaker with a very bright future ahead of him. Even if Johnson never makes another movie, though, he has created something that is thought-provoking, engaging and horrifying in equal measures.
Do not miss our screening of THE DIRTIES this Sunday, October 13 at 7:30 PM at Vintage Park.