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It’s the Poconos Baby!!
Before we talk about the quality of the movie Mean spirit is yet another film shoot that struggles to reconcile the entertainment power of influencers. Unlike some other films that seem to fall into the trap of portraying online content creators who feel one-dimensional, Mean Spirited aims for something bigger and more dynamic. It’s a comedy to be sure, but also a step in the right direction when it comes to treating influencers like real people. This film’s tongue is so firmly rooted in its cheek that no one (not even the characters) take it seriously. If you expect it to break new ground, you will be disappointed. However, if you want a good time, coupled with some fun scares and solid comedy Mean spirit will be your jam. It was an afternoon well spent for me.
The central premise of the film is quite simple. A failed YouTuber’s weekend in the Poconos turns into a nightmare when a demon joins the party. The movie tends to focus more on the relationship between former best friends turned enemies (sort of) Bryce and Andy. A fun supporting cast of friends and a film crew round out a talented ensemble. The film is quite short on fright, especially in the first thirty minutes. If the cast wasn’t so strong, it might get boring. It will be fine though, because the ensemble is so much fun to hang out with.
Even as a caricature, Andy (Will Madden) is fun to watch. There is an amiable charm in his wimpy behavior. We’ve all had that friend or colleague who stumbled upon success. They’re a step up, and no matter how hard we work, they keep looking down on us (ok, maybe that’s a little bit on me). Andy is an asshole, but in a way that felt familiar to me. Jeff Ryan, who is present throughout this movie as writer and director and supporting character Bryce, really shines. Ryan is awesome when he leans into this kind of off-brand Alexander Skarsgård routine, which is absolutely hilarious.
There are some justifiably funny bits in the movie, and they’re almost always character driven. They are often bizarre and will have many critics comparing these set pieces to Evil Dead II. They are undoubtedly funny bits though, as I was chuckling for most of the movie. . This found footage/influencer vibe in which the film’s aesthetic works is starting to look a little familiar. Mean spirit would be a great double feature with dead stream, another movie that shares a lot of DNA with this movie.
A little about YouTube videos.
I’m more than jokes, especially the ones with random people. I want nothing to do with your stupid antics, and please don’t use my comment for influence. The main characters here are all about the jokes. They are the worst, and while I know they are still popular on some YouTube channels, I kind of hate them. This movie deals with that hate in a way that feels authentic. IE, they suck, and it’s used to humanize our characters and increase how much we dislike them.
The weird elements of this movie (namely the cutscenes between the main feed) that we quickly get a glimpse of seem absolutely perfect for this kind of movie. They all feel a bit odd, and without the comedy to tie them into the movie, they feel disconnected and disconnected from the rest of the movie. They work to add an element of disorientation to the photo, which helps create some really creepy moments later on. Technically, the film is quite well put together. The storyline is clear. The cinematography is beautiful, especially when it takes advantage of the natural environment. I’m super intrigued by the idea that the friends we outgrow are really possessed by demons. Definitely feels like that’s the case in high school. There’s an awful lot of people who look pretty demonic, and they’re all wearing red hats. Foreign.
“I didn’t know you liked birds”
Mean spirit is a film that is infinitely quotable. It’s worth picking out a few. The parody of influencers is done with a deep understanding of style and an appreciation for the creativity that goes into creating content day in and day out. Basically, it feels like Jeff Ryan and Joe Adams are fans of certain YouTube channels or at least understand why some people like to consume that kind of content. It’s not the scariest movie I’ve seen lately, but it’s still a lot of fun. It has a great little twist at the end that I may have seen coming, but I still smiled when it happened. Mean Spirited is out now, and if you have ninety minutes and want a laugh, you should give it a try.
Tyler has been Signal Horizon’s editor-in-chief since its conception. He is also the director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University, a class that combines horror film criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he’s not watching, teaching, or thinking about horror, he’s the director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.