14th Feb2015

‘Auteur’ Review

by Joel Harley

Stars: Tom Sizemore, B.J. Hendricks, Ian Hutton, Madeline Merritt, Eli Jane, Matt Mercer, Ace Marrero, Hannah Dawson, Lucy Dawson, Elina Loukas, Val Mulligan, L. Stephen Phelan | Written by James Cullen Bressack, JD Fairman, Michael Sean Gomez | Directed by Cameron Romero

Auteur-poster

Filmmaker baggage doesn’t come much heavier than having a world famous dad in the business. As horror names go, George A. Romero is about as big as they get, being director of the iconic Night of the Living Dead, Dawn and Day of the Dead, plus underrated gems like Monkey Shines, Martin and Land of the Dead too. Son of the great man, director Cameron Romero attempts to step out of his shadow with Auteur, a found footage film-about-a-film in which an aspiring documentary maker attempts to track down an elusive, now-missing horror director.

It’s a more promising concept than Romero Jr.’s clichéd, forgettable Staunton Hill – done well, it could have been the next Blair Witch Project faux-documentary masterpiece and helped Cameron carve out a name for himself as his own filmmaker. Sadly, this sort of thing is usually only as good as its film-within-the-film, so it’s a shame that reclusive director Charlie Buckwald’s near mythical Demonic looks terrible – not worth looking up on Wikipedia, let alone making a documentary about. Its documentary maker hero isn’t much better, spending more time standing around looking gormless rather than asking the hard questions or ever breaking a sweat in his particular brand of investigative journalism. While he does find his subject impressively fast (take that, Morgan Spurlock!) Jack spends as much time hiding from Buckwald as he does interviewing him. Any chance of taking him or his movie seriously is lost when he describes Buckwald as ‘one of the greatest directors on Earth’. To be clear, this is a reality in which our real-life masters of horror definitely still exist (evidenced by a cheeky Romero Sr. sort-of-cameo popping up in a video rental store and an Exorcist namedrop in the script), which means that we’re expected to believe that Demonic is up there with the work of Wes Craven, John Carpenter or Daddy Romero. The Exorcist reference is particularly ill-advised. It would have been for the best if they’d left Demonic entirely unseen, like all the best horror ideas. Nothing could have lived up to the hype Cameron sets up for himself – let alone Buckwald’s cheap and useless exorcism movie.

Thankfully, Tom Sizemore pops up playing himself as a grumpy interviewee to liven things up, while there is an amusing streak to the film that excuses some of its silliness. Its central mystery is intriguing enough that the pace nips along pleasantly, never boring or outstaying its welcome. None of the actors manage to sell the story’s supposed foundation in reality, but neither are they particularly terrible either – although Sizemore acts the rest of them under the table (a table he never moves from during his limited screentime), being as gruffly dismissive of Jack and his project as the audience will no doubt end up by the film’s end. It culminates with a masterclass in unintentional hilarity, its hero moved to tears by the brilliance of Demonic. Just imagine if he were to watch an actual classic of the genre. The poor fellow might never recover.

Auteur is a disappointment, failing to live up to either the concept or mythos it creates for itself. It’s unfair to judge Cameron Romero by his father’s standards, but when there’s this much of a disparity between the two, it’s hard not to. By anyone’s standards, Auteur is a bad movie. It could be worse though – at least it’s not as bad as Charlie Buckwald’s Demonic. Boy, is that one a stinker!

** 2/5

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