So, it’s movie night once again and this week, myself and my brother were scrolling through movies and we came across ‘The Dirties’ which sounded like a really interesting concept for a film. We read into it and it got a lot of positive reviews so we thought we were in for a good film… and then we watched it. Oh, boy. Spoilers ahead.
The last thing I want to do is shit all over independent film makers because they’re definitely trying their best and want to make it in the business and that’s totally cool and I respect them for actually making the movie. However, there are a few things wrong with this movie and I appreciate that this film is low budget even by low budget standards but these things that I found wrong with this film were virtually free to change.
The first point is that for a production budget of just $10,000, this was an ambitious plot.
The story follows two ‘teenagers’, Matt (Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) who are friends and are bullied by the jock types or ‘Dirties’ as they are dubbed at their high school. For a project, they decide to make a film which would see Matt and Owen play themselves as super-secret agents or something who have been dispatched to kill the ‘Dirties’ and save every nerd from another bog-wash. However, Matt beings to think that it would be a good idea to actually kill the Dirties for real and no one seems to challenge him on it.
The reason why I put the word teenagers in sarcastic quotes is because both Matt and Owen are clearly too old to be teenagers. Through lack of any clarification, I’m guessing that both Matt and Owen were in their late 20’s when they filmed this movie. It’s a technique used by literally every production team who have hired actors that are clearly too old to be playing teenagers, they wear ripped jeans and ‘ironic’ t-shirts and that’s it, they’re officially high school students.
This film is independent except picture the word ‘independent’ in huge, glaring, neon letters and that’s the kind of independent we’re talking about.
The first scene shows Matt and Owen talking to two kids in a park about the movie that their making. Matt describes the plot of his movie and it turned out the kids are making a movie also and so they too talk about the plot to their movie. Turns out, the kids weren’t actors playing kids but rather they met Matt and Owen in the park and it was filmed and then put in the movie.
In fact, this film was so low budget that they didn’t bother with filming permits or consent forms to show the random people that they filmed, they just filmed it and hey presto. Which actually makes it a bit weird because a good chunk of this film was shot at a high school with kids wandering around the hallways. I would assume that some deal was made with the school to allow the guys to film there and feature their students. The students with actual dialogue lines will have been actors.
SO, let’s talk about this ‘movie within a movie’, ‘The Dirties’. The two guys who are supposed to be high school students and are being regularly bullied decide to make a film and killing the people who are bullying them that will be shown to their entire class which includes the people who are bullying them. That… sounds… smart?
I know, because I used to be bullied when I was in high school, that the last thing that I ever wanted from the people who were bullying me, was attention and therefore, an opportunity for ridicule and embarrassment. With that, it’s scientifically impossible to dress up as a woman and pretend to be singing on a piano and get away with it… As Matt and Owen find out because after their first screening, on their way home, Owen has a rock thrown at his head.
Afterwards is when Matt begins to think that maybe people would’ve liked it better if they’d killed the Dirties for real. Owen laughs it off, thinking he’s joking but Matt begins to plan out ‘The Dirties II’.
Through the rest of the film, Matt checks out the plans to the school from the library, claiming that it’s for a movie that he’s making and then boasts that it was easy and his ID was never checked which of course it should have been because Matt is clearly not a teenager nor a high school student.
It’s obvious that this film has taken a very heavy influence from the Columbine High School massacre or more specifically, the two perpetrators. Matt and Owen are outcasts and bullied like the two shooters were, they made weird and cringy films about killing bullies just like the shooters did and they even made videos of themselves shooting in the woods just like the two shooters did. IMDB also states that on the drive to his cousin’s house to shoot guns, Matt makes the same hand gesture that one of the shooters did in a home video. Matt is also seen reading ‘Columbine‘ as he self-diagnoses himself as a psychopath on top of checking out six copies of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ which for those of you who don’t know is the book that Mark David Chapman (the man who shot and killed John Lennon) was obsessed with.
There is a side plot which involves Owen liking this girl but she hangs out with the Dirties but Matt encourages Owen to ‘woo’ her and he does and she likes him and so they start hanging out and it’s all lovely but then Owen and Matt have this fight because Owen is tired of Matt acting like a dickhead which so am I at this point. Matt seems like one of those people who talks a lot about killing someone but will never actually do it (or so we think) but Owen seems to think Matt is this person and so leaves.
This appears to be the catalyst. The final thing that pushes Matt over the edge.
Let me just say that by watching a film about a shooting in a high school, what I didn’t sign up for was to have the shooting at the end and also have it be not very good. It may as well have been a cliffhanger. It was all build up and no pay off. It wasn’t even very good build-up.
Basically, Matt take a bag of his cousin’s guns to school and then places little cameras around pivotal points in the hallways and then shoots two of the kids who used to bully him. Owen sees this and of course tries to make a run for it but doesn’t go towards any of the dozens of exits that are located on the ground floor of this high school but instead runs into a classroom with no way out. Matt tries to calm Owen and that’s the end of the film.
That’s that. You know what? There was no scripted dialogue for this film. You know what? It shows. Improvising dialogue is all vey well if you want the conversations to sound ‘real’ in this fictional movie but that method kind of requires that you know how to improvise and the dialogue for this film is boring. The characters are unrealistic and unsympathetic, I wasn’t sad when I was watching them getting bullied because I was thinking, ‘Why doesn’t this adult fight back?’
I know it’s cheaper to play the roles yourselves instead of hiring actors but in this instance, I think hiring actors would have worked in your favour. Have two teenage actors playing your leads and just have two less characters for the needless ‘interview’ segment that didn’t do anything.
You know what might have saved this film? If it was actually found footage. Because it’s not. There is clearly someone filming them. If the two had little Digi-cams and the footage that we saw was being shot by them then that would have added a little something to it and I know that there is a third party in the room because Matt addresses them on more than one occasion. Why is Matt setting up cameras to document his rampage when there is a camera crew following him around? That person behind the camera must have known what Matt was up to and if that was the case then they are willing accomplices and are going to prison.
Again, if all the footage at the end would have been from the cameras that Matt had set up or if he was wearing a ‘body-cam’ or if the final scene would have been from a police officer or SWAT team member and the footage was from their body-cam, that would have been better than what we got. That would have been a memorable ending and a lot of the faffing about in the middle may have been forgiven.
For what it’s worth, for a REALLY low budget film, it’s not terrible. There are some good ideas on display which with a little more cash and some more time, could have turned this into a half-way decent movie. I could see what they were trying to do. It’s just… I don’t see what everyone else saw in it. I don’t see why it’s so good.
I’ll leave you with this. ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’ was made for the same amount of money. Do with that what you will.