AFF Film Review: Hellaware

October 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Starring: Keith Poulson, Clark Bliss, Brent Butler
Directed by: Michael Bilandic (“Happy Life”)
Written by: Michael Bilandic (“Happy Life”)

To promote his new film “Hellaware,” director Michael Bilandic did something pretty genius. The film tells the story of aspiring photographer and artist Nate (Keith Poulson) who follows a terrible rap-rock group called “Young Torture Killaz” and photographs their unique culture. To help gain awareness of the film, Biandic uploaded a music video for the fictional band’s graphic song “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off” to various web video sites. The video went viral, racking up hundreds of thousands of views, sparking tons of angry and confused comments and, when eventually outed as a marketing tool, a spot in the consciousness of the film industry.

At its core “Hellaware” is a satire, poking fun at rap-rock culture made famous by Insane Clown Posse, pretentious hipsters, and the avant-garde art scene. Some of it can be quite funny, especially when in the hands of Poulson who plays his part well. The satire, however, is laid on pretty thick throughout the film and never seems to let up. As a result, the impact can tend to be lessened or just generally misfire. The music and characterization of this fictional band is obnoxious and one-dimensional. While it is by design, the film can also be a little unpleasant to watch. It feels like some restraint could have been used when it came to many of the party and dialogue-heavy scenes. Some of those specifically seem to run too long with little payoff.

There are a handful of genuine laughs in the film, mostly at non-sequitors or Nate’s pretentiousness when it comes to his art and the subsequent ribbing he gets for it. Mostly though, the satire is not sharp enough, the narrative is a bit lacking, and the film has middling comedic results.

“Hellaware” plays at the 2013 Austin Film Festival Friday, Oct. 25 at 10:45 p.m. (Alamo Drafthouse Village) and Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 9:45 p.m. (Hideout Theater).

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