Since first laying eyes on the one sheet poster for the film, you know, the one that had the bloody clapperboard featured front and center, with the title headlining the whole thing in bold, proud lettering, I knew I had to see what Egomaniac was all about. After discovering that it'd be a horror comedy built on the premise of an artist's sacrifice for their craft, my anticipation only grew. The trailer, which followed shortly after, only served to confirm my initial gut feeling; this was a must watch. It was only natural then, that we covered its premiere at FrightFest 2016, and then waited, patiently, for the day in which we'd finally be able to see the film for ourselves.
Fast forward nearly a year, with a couple viewings of Egomaniac under my belt (our podcast team, at least as of this writing, are still going through it), and I can happily state that the wait was absolutely worth it. I can also state, that it was a totally different beast than what I was originally anticipating. But that's jumping ahead; here's how the film is summarized in the official synopsis:
"Filmmaker, Catherine Sweeney is determined to make a zombie horror romantic comedy. However, in order to get the funding, everyone in the industry is telling her to put a talking dog in it. Desperate, Catherine does whatever it takes to get her film made... At the cost of her own sanity."
Coming into it, I was prepared to be met with a screenplay that would deliver hard on the laughs while simultaneously indulging in some good old fashion horror violence; after all, we are talking about a movie in which the catalyst for that eventual slip into raging madness, is a "talking dog". Egomaniac, as expected, was able to deliver wonderfully on both fronts. In regards to the former, nearly every scene shared by actress Nic Lamont (Catherine Sweeney) and Adam Rhys-Davies (Nathan) left me with a smile on my face; the two shared great on-screen chemistry, and ping-ponged their hilarious lines off each other with perfect timing. But the laughs don't begin and end with them either; Laurence R. Harvey (My Bloody Banjo, The Editor) does a fantastic job as the pitied, and pitiful actor, Michael, his minimal screen time still memorable thanks to an awkwardly funny audition for a role his character was so clearly not suited for. Similarly, Loren O'Brien as the highly energetic Natasha, had me absolutely rolling. Her improvisational "warm up", which followed shortly after her initial appearance in the film, was so left-field ridiculous that it warranted a couple rewinds! The rest of the cast pull their weight here as well, doing Kate Shenton's script great justice and as a result, the comedy comes across organically and effortlessly; which is no small feat.
"I may look normal, but believe me, there is one messed up imagination inside of here..."
Of course, Egomaniac is still a horror film at heart, a fact it is very much aware of; the film knows precisely when to stop laughing, and when to bare its bloody fangs instead. Thankfully, the transition from joking levity to violent seriousness happens naturally. As Catherine Sweeney and her film are put through the cold, calculated industry machine, more and more of her integrity is compromised and the layers of sanity, gradually stripped. It's a slow boil filled with some absolutely crushing, dehumanizing moments, that when the horrific crescendo finally hits, there's no question as to whether its believable or not.
Going back earlier in the review, I mention that Egomaniac ended up being a totally different beast than I had originally anticipated. By that, I mean I didn't expect there to exist this underlying somber tone which came across almost passive-aggressively. This isn't a negative aspect to the film at all mind you, even if it sort of sounds like one. Quite opposite, I was pleasantly surprised that I was bummed out by Egomaniac as much as I was tickled by it...
...hear me out.
There are some very real and disturbing truths to the kind of madness Catherine Sweeney is made to endure, and after having worked with smaller independent filmmakers and listening to some of their own personal horror stories, it was quite the gut-punch to see it visualized to some degree, on screen. In retrospect, the humor almost feels like the equivalent of a forced smile through painful tears, and I'm glad this is the case. Had it been played as a more straight-laced comedy, it probably would have felt mean-spirited, almost making light of the struggles it attempts to portray. The success Egomaniac finds in being a layered commentary speaks once again to the fabulous screen play written by Shenton, and the amazing job by the cast in realizing that direction.
I already liked the film before recognizing this particular aspect; now, I simply love it. Egomaniac is a must watch.
THIS IS MY EF'N FILM...