Reviewed by Kryten Syxx
Starring Seth Landau, Tiffany Shepis, Lloyd Kaufman, Candy Stanton, Tony Todd, Tom Noga, Tori King, Jacqui Allen
Written and directed by Seth Landau
Distributed by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment
The build up to the Bryan Loves You DVD release was an interesting one. Off and on we’d get e-mails from writer/director Seth Landau about all the “>weird happenings going on during and after the film wrapped. Of course, this was all a well thought out gimmick to create a mythos around the Bryan Cult, and it worked in piquing interest. It may not have been on the same scale as Blair Witch or Cloverfield, but their efforts did have a payoff. Now, can those winnings be cashed in with the movie itself?
Honestly, I really wish I could say “Yes” to that. Cults taking over small towns can make for good and bloodless fun when done right. Add in the fact that Bryan Loves You is mostly shot with a handheld camera to give that realistic feel and this should be a near instant win, but it just didn’t work. Let’s try to piece together just where everything went wrong.
From the information we’re given, the “found footage” was supposed to take place during the early ‘90s, with a majority of it centering around a young psychotherapist named Jonathan. Well, trying to maintain the belief that this is discovered footage is difficult when the writer and director is playing the lead role. Not to mention that cell phones and modern cars are present. Maybe this one can be written off if the story and acting is believable enough…
Jonathan’s small Arizona town is vastly under the influence of a cult that follows the belief that a long dead prince by the name of Bryan is the true savior. After being slain by the devil, Bryan was unable to fulfill his destiny, thus leaving his followers forever in search of the evil one, to make him pay for its crime. Cult members are in nearly every part of society here. They are in the schools, healthcare facilities, law enforcement … but Jonathan doesn’t really seem to notice the present danger or question it.
In fact, he never really reacts to anything going on, which is a bit weird considering our main focus is on how the cult affects him. Initially there’s mild curiosity that leads to the death of one of his friends. No mourning or true concern is expressed by him or his female companion. This feeling of general malaise carries out through 75% of the film. Why so much disinterest or lack of emotional range in such a fucked up situation? A friend of yours was found dead and you know she was part of an weird cult! You found a damn hidden camera in her house just before she died! Freak out a little! Call the cops? Express concern in your voice at least?
Come to think of it, nearly the entire cast lacks any sort of realism. Watching “found footage” shouldn’t have the viewer asking questions like, “Why is everyone acting so overly evil?” When cult members and others working with the Bryan group start to openly express their sinister ways, it does not feel genuine. The best way to describe it is almost cartoon-like or overblown like in some amateur stage production.
On the flip side of the coin, Jonathan has a continual mono-tone voice and expression through many of his trials and tribulations during Bryan Loves You. Even when the cult suckers him into being admitted to a nut house, his reaction goes from slightly surprised to almost accepting his fate rather quickly. Again, a lack of stimulus on the part of our hero results in a downward turn in the audience’s ability to give a damn what happens.
As luck would have it, the latter half of BLY is just full of cameos. Bryan stops being a movie and starts becoming a drinking game: two shots if you spot Lloyd Kaufman, five each time Tiffany Shepis gives a sexy evil look. Hell, down an entire bottle of Trinidad Lite when George Wendt busts in with his “talking” doll. This works great for horror genre fans, but casual viewers can be turned off quickly. That is a sad situation considering quite a bit happens in BLY, though it has a way of being uninteresting.
The final tragedy to all this is the absence of a behind-the-scenes featurette about Bryan or the film production. Instead of any video supplements, a feature length cast and crew commentary is available and it steals the show. Seth Landau has charisma here and that begs me to ask where the hell was it on camera?! There’s so much going on here from stories during production to tales of lost virginity; not a single amount of that energy appears to have made it into the actual film. Shame.
Bryan Loves You does have a grand sense of scale, both set wise and from the glimpse we get into the history of the cult, yet it never translates into an enjoyable experience. We’re not giving up on Seth Landau though. It is apparent he has talent behind the cameras, now we just have to see him use it.
2 out of 5
4 out of 5