Runtime: 84 minutes
Director: Gillian Horvat
Writers: Gillian Horvat & Chase Williamson
Actors: Gillian Horvat, Keith Poulson, Chase Williamson, Jennifer Kim, Alexia Rasmussen, Morgan Krantz, Lucas Kavner
By Simon Whitlock
Filmmaking, so the cliché goes, is a cut-throat business and “I Blame Society” (2020), the debut feature from director, co-writer and star Gillian Horvat, has decided to take that message literally. Inspired by a comment from her friends that she would make a good murderer, Horvat plays – one hopes – a heavily fictionalized version of herself who sets out to make a documentary about how she would carry out “the perfect murder”.
As events unfold however, the obsessive filmmaker finds herself blurring the lines between her art and reality, when Horvat’s fantasizing about killing escalates into her taking often gruesome action on those she deems deserving.
Both Horvat the director and co-writer, and Horvat the character share a careful attention to detail in their work. The film is shot in a found-footage style, with cameras and smartphones conspicuously (to the viewer) dotted around the scene to gather as much footage from as many different angles as possible. This is often done in-script, as Horvat prepares her unwitting victims’ final moments – sometimes in their own homes – to be captured with an at times incredulous amount of coverage.
While we’re constantly aware of the horrific acts which the protagonist is carrying out, there is something perversely satisfying about watching Horvat’s very tactile preparation. At one point she even assembles a rudimentary dolly which she quite literally cranks toward her when filming, it’s an effective reminder that the character is still a committed filmmaker, while also being a pretty amusing visual gag.
The film is filled with moments of deliciously mean-spirited dark humour throughout, and there are a few seemingly intentional nods to films such as “American Psycho” in a couple of scenes. The most effective comic moments are barbed with a satirical edge towards the film industry, and it seems that nobody is safe; from the buzzword-spewing studio producers who preach allyship but disregard Horvat’s ideas in favor of something about “breastfeeding in public” or “intersectionality” (or “intersexuality” as one of them suggests), to such hyper-committed, borderline psychopaths like the fictional Horvat, who insist they just want to make “a low-budget indie with lots of integrity”.
The real Gillian Horvat has had her fair share of experience to date as a producer and a director of short films, and it doesn’t feel like too much of a leap to suggest a touch of meta self-deprecation in “I Blame Society”. The film’s scenes between the fictional Horvat and the men in her life, professionally and personally, will no doubt ring true on some level to other women in film, and for those viewers there will be no shortage of cathartic glee taken in the grisly acts of retribution carried out.
One can only hope that this isn’t Horvat’s only venture into directing feature films, as “I Blame Society” is a fearless, twisted debut which suggests that the director has so much more to offer. God help the executive who dares to turn her down after watching this film, anyway.