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   Final Film Critique: 
   Behind the Scenes of Total Hell

   Director: Andy Wilton
   Expected Rating: PG -13
   Distribution: None
   Budget: ₤1,000 (approx. $2,000)
   Genre: Mockumentary/Comedy

   Running Time: 97 minutes

   Release Date: January 31, 2009
   Website: Click Here
   Trailer: Click Here
   Review Date: January 1, 2009
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan
Final Score:

Jamie Gunn is an aspiring low-budget filmmaker who is determined to make a cinematic masterpiece that will make Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino look like schoolboy amateurs. Armed with a script for the film “Totalitarian Hell”, Jamie sets about trying to raise money for his film. Unfortunately, his efforts in this –as well as the entire process of making the film—are thwarted by… himself.

Jamie is the victim of an overinflated sense of self-importance and overwhelming ego, and thinks that planning is a minor, annoying detail. His arrogance and ill-planning repeatedly sabotage the film, ultimately resulting in a movie with no script, no money, disappearing equipment, a dwindling and disillusioned cast and crew, and a producer on the run from loan sharks. Behind the Scenes shows Jamie’s descent into directorial deterioration as the audience can only watch in disbelief (or laugh in total belief… because they’ve been there!)

Jamie’s irrational demands lead to the departure of several cast and crew members...
...while conflicts among the cast and crew themselves result in more walk-offs.

Because this is a mockumentary shot in the style of reality television, it’s rather difficult to tell just where the line is between scripted and unscripted scenarios. According to the director, some of the actors believed that they were taking part in a real movie (“Totalitarian Hell”), and weren’t told that the ACTUAL project was the mockumentary. Thus, many of the reactions from the various cast members are completely genuine. For the actors who were “in” on the project, all I could think was “How the hell can they keep a straight face while saying these things?!” The acting is excellent all around, and is a tribute to the talent of the actors and the cunning of the director.

The film bears much similarity to NBC's The Office, in that the camera is a neutral observer to the bizarrely surreal and awkward situations the characters find themselves in. Behind the Scenes did an excellent job of approaching the line of “uncomfortably awkward” humor, without lingering there too long. The story was paced very well, and avoided dragging on for too long in places where it would’ve been easy to do so. In addition, the editing was first-rate. The way that different scenes were arranged made the most of the humor in each part, thus in turn adding to the humor and creativity of the film itself.

The use of a few animated scenes in the mockumentary adds to the visual variety...
...and the poor quality of the film footage enhances the campiness of “Total Hell”.

Visual Look
Because this is shot in the style of a RealityTV/documentary, things like unsteady camerawork and uneven or overexposed lighting are expected and therefore, forgivable. While there are some scenes that have these problems, the camera shakes are kept to a minimum, and the lighting is fairly even for most of the film.

Andy Wilton utilized several different visual styles to enhance the overall look of the film. Because the cameraman for Total Hell “lost” their main camera partway through filming, the actual film footage was shot with a replacement camera: an outdated camcorder that recorded only in poor-quality black and white. This had the nice effect of giving Totalitarian Hell the look of a badly campy, B-rated horror film (which it more or less was.) Scenes like a very strange date at a bowling alley utilized some very creative use of lighting and white-balancing. There were also a few Python-esque animated scenes that fit in surprisingly well with the rest of the movie. The animation sequences were not very long, and they showed action that would have either been too abstract or difficult to shoot live. Mixing animation and live action in a film is difficult to pull off, because it can jolt the audience out of the world you’re trying to create. However, if it’s done carefully and sparingly, it can enhance the film, as it’s done here.

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