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'Untitled Horror Movie' Review: If 'Host' was a dull comedy

Nick Simon's 'Untitled Horror Movie' is a screenlife horror film created under pandemic conditions, and it's like everything you've seen before.

Something is behind you in 'Untitled Horror Movie.'
(Image: © (YET) ANOTHER DISTRIBUTION COMPANY)

Our Verdict

'Untitled Horror Movie' is best suited for horror fans who haven't tired of the kind of antics the film leans into.

For

  • 💻 The cast gels.
  • 💻 Everyone impressively does their own production.
  • 💻 One or two solid sight gags.

Against

  • 💻 Never terrifying.
  • 💻 Barely even an introductory idea.
  • 💻 'Host' but not good.

I struggle with Untitled Horror Movie because it’s never horrifying, nor does this comedic interpretation of screenlife possessions ever desire to scare audiences. Through and through, director Nick Simon feels like he’s directing a pandemic hangout between professional friends who have some time to kill while in quarantine. It’s Host if the Host team filmed themselves conceptualizing a paranormal Zoom feature and accidentally summoned a demon in the process—without the excitement, organic flow, or screams. No doubt, every actor is having a blast enveloping themselves in writhing bodily fits and do-it-yourself handiwork. I’m just not positive who this movie is for besides each performer’s superfans?

The cast of the fictional television show Belle is on a brief hiatus and isn’t sure whether the network will renew their employment. Over video chat, leading man Kip (Timothy Granaderos) reveals he’s cooked up a spooky script they can record on their terms while decisions are in limbo. The actors relish a project where they can retain sole control and begin testing cell phone footage that gets studio attention. Unfortunately, Chrissy (Katherine McNamara) and Declan (Luke Baines) may have accidentally summoned a demon when going too method? At least their expressions of fear will be genuine in the final product.

The mightiest hurdle for horror-comedies to overcome is the balance between terrifying imagery and self-observant yucks, which Untitled Horror Movie disproportionately fumbles. Luke Baines and Nick Simon formulate a screenplay that pokes fun at surface-value horror tropes and never generates even the slightest sensation of paranoia, always falling back onto dependable Hollywood stereotypes. It’s not even witty enough to compete with screenlife horror attempts from the subgenre’s initial conception, as egotistical actors quote A-list nonsense while guffawing at shadows that barely register as spectral threats. It’s all influenced by isolation conditions and reminiscent of the misconception that screenlife or found footage is an easy score when pandering to horror crowds. At least have the decency to elicit a howl?

That’s not to say Katherine McNamara doesn’t delight as a ditzy blonde bombshell, or Darren Barnet doesn’t nail the kind of self-important star chaser who’d quote Kevin Smith appearances on Joe Rogan’s podcast. If Untitled Horror Movie is a showcase for anyone involved, it’s these two goofballs who thrust themselves into the madness of their respective breakdowns. McNamara consistently nails appearing three steps behind her cohorts and exudes this gullible sweetheart charm that’s nothing close to her Arrow persona. Barnet emphasizes his character’s overdramatic compulsion to enhance physical comedy, taking the word “extra” to new heights. In these terms, the satirical character arcs on display meet intentional humorousness and confirm there’s worthwhile intent beyond staying active during a nationwide shutdown.

Elsewhere, the command of Emmy Raver-Lampman and Claire Holt are wasted on easily hateable bitchiness or bland victim outlines. Both actresses have impressed in their respective episodic roles, but Untitled Horror Movie revels in its bodies-flop-on-beds expectancies. Holt is the leading vixen who lashes out against her competition in a very “female combative” way, always with wine in hand, while Raver-Lampman is just a window dressing in terms of development. Timothy Granaderos isn’t much better as the writer and director of this doomed production, as the obvious meddlings with online curses become indistinguishable from seventy-billion other indie horror narratives. There’s never a more significant genre push to redefine what’s been executed with infinitely more ferocity and punishment in terms of Paranormal Activity to Unfriended, and comedy leanings only widen the gap between comparable superiors. I’m tickled by everyone involved having such a good time—that appreciation is only a compliment for vastly enjoyable end-credits bloopers outside the previous ninetyish minutes.

Untitled Horror Movie is a forgettable foray into laptop restriction horror, which stacks a loaded cast against meager storytelling means that strike out on frights. Actors position their ring lights and launch into action, but singular filmmaking feats are only so impressive when the result isn’t even worth a pirate. It’s such an underwhelming facilitation of horror jokiness that barely scratches any satanic surfaces, which might be acceptable given vastly more thoughtful commentaries via industry roasts and studious genre laughs. I’ve seen SNL skits with more meta-chops than this cute side project amongst chums—maybe Untitled Horror Movie would have been better as a short? As is, there’s nothing that sets apart even a nanosecond of material from too many other low-budget lookalikes that never even address fundamental questions like who’s editing in an instrumental score?