It’s always exciting to get the opportunity to witness up and coming local talent put together a film. What was nice about this particular film, The Actor, is that I had never heard of it before, so had no issues of expectations or thought going into the film. All I knew was a basic plot outline and that it had cost just R49, 000 to make. This last note is an important one to acknowledge, as that is a really small budget for a movie. It works out to around $4000, which is less than some Hollywood movies spend on toilet-paper. So, when you have a film that is as bare-basics as this film, you shouldn’t expect top notch product values or cinematography, as it is simply not possible with the budget. If you go to watch the film without this understanding, you may feel that it was cheaply put together, but if you remember that it actually was, you can enjoy it without worrying about the minor technical issues.
Thankfully, all a good movie really needs is story. Well, mostly. The story revolves around a struggling actor who has an opportunity for a lead role in a big film playing a demon possessed man. However, in his research for the role and attempts to develop a captivating audience video, he takes things a little too far and becomes possessed himself. In truth, the story is not a very captivating one and has been told many times before. Yes, there are other things going on in the script like his relationship with his daughter (Shannyn Fourie) and strained relationships with his ex-wife, but they are very inconsequential to the rest of the plot. In fact, for its short running time of 89 minutes, it could probably have done with a few minutes less footage and being better off for it.
The Actor has a lot of narrative gaps which it will expect the audience to fill. This is not a complicated film though, so audiences shouldn’t have a problem being able to fill these themselves, even if it can be a little disconcerting. Additionally there is little build-up of the main character before he heads towards his downward spiral. However, this film was never about being perfect, but about creating an experience.
The film relies mostly on a found footage concept, similar to Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project, which is a fitting choice given the tight budget and almost the entire footage of the film, takes place within the confines of the apartment. So again, this is s limited as you can imagine. Remember they had no set to work with, so couldn’t build walls around the most desired camera angles, but rather had to fit the cameras around the confines of the set. However despite these locations constraints, the claustrophobic feel of the film actually helps to build the tension quite nicely. It also creates a sense of immersion which only heightens the creepiness of the whole experience.
With a light plot and small setting, it’s a challenge that the director tries his best to work around. And while there is a lot that doesn’t come off, there is probably little that could be done given what they had to work with.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle the film had to overcome was its dialogue, which for the most part felt contrived and almost forced by the actors in the film. Thankfully, the film’s actor, writer, director and producer Aidan Whytock is actually a talented actor and its his acting performance that holds most of the film together. He still fell into the tendency to over-act or use gimmicks to show his possessed state, but he also had lots of convincing moments in between which worked. Unfortunately the rest of the actors did not look so convincing, but probably also received the worst dialogue to work with too.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t find the film particularly scary, but then it takes a lot to get me scared. What I did like about the approach that was taken here is that unlike many of its horror peers, the film doesn’t rely on jump scare tactics, but genuinely attempts to creep you out. It does this mostly through its simple, yet haunting score and sound. There is a lot that happens in the dark where you can’t see what is going on and so the films makes use of its sounds to try and make the audience feel uncomfortable and wonder what is going on (there is very little gore at all in the film). And while the breathing noises used come across as cheesy the rest does work.
This is not a film that is going to appeal to a wide audience. And to be honest, it’s not even a great film. Based in comparison to other films, it’s going to fall short in so many areas, but given what little they had to work with, it’s actually quite an impressive achievement. There are many films that have done its concept better, but also a lot of big Hollywood films that have done worse. So, for guts alone, it deserves high praise.
For this reason alone, The Actor should stand out among the many local films that have come out this year. What it lacks in execution and story, it makes up for with heart. I certainly hope local film fans will go out and support the movie, not just so that the cast and crew can actually get some money for their work, but also so that we can see what they might be able to do had they more to actually work with.
Last Updated: September 13, 2016