Reviewing Shooting April, the new film written and directed by Tod Lancaster, has been a lot harder than I originally thought because after watching it, the only thing I can really think is “…that was pretty f***ing crazy.” And while one line would assuage some people, I don’t really think that’s something most others would be content with, so bear with me as I try to gather my wits throughout the course of this review.
So, Shooting April was pretty f***ing crazy… DAMN. Hang on. Deep breath…
Despite suffering from the logic flaws of other films shot in a similar way (Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead), Shooting April manages to rise above it on the strength of both its story and the absolute knockout performance by its lead actor. It hits all the right spots, being both funny and disturbing at the same time, and Lancaster shows his ability to create tension that builds up until it’s released in a final act that is so dark, I’m having a hard time getting it out of my head.
Shooting April is made up of a series of videos recorded by three friends: Truman (Matthew John Prater), Weasel (Eric Fagundes), and Doug (Darius Safavi). Truman is the leader of the group, the loud boisterous one who lacks any fear and any conscience. Weasel is the opposite of Truman, horrible with the ladies and would probably scream if he saw his own shadow. Doug, the third man, is the guy with the camera shooting the footage and occasionally chiming in with his two cents.
The reason they are shooting footage in the first place is for their website, where they post a variety of videos of them doing stunts and engaging in all sorts of other debauchery. For the first half of the movie, we follow the three as Doug tapes Truman destroying property, having sex with a girl in a boat at a party, and setting himself on fire, all the while trying to outdo himself and to get Weasel to “grow a pair” (that’s the technical term, Google it). At one of the parties they attend, they meet a girl named April (Rachel Seiferth), who’s shy and from the looks of it, way too nice to be associating with people of this caliber. Naturally since Truman considers himself to be a god, he thinks he can get her to sleep with him on the first date. The other two disagree, and it becomes a bet: if Truman can do it, he gets 100 bucks. Unfortunately, things begin to escalate and eventually get out of hand.
If this movie doesn’t get Matthew John Prater more work, then it’s a complete shame. He completely owns the role of Truman, mixing in both the arrogance of a guy who never loses with the darkness of a man who refuses to lose at any cost. In the beginning when we see the first stunt, Truman using a bat to destroy some property, we can already sense that this man is a bit off his rocker. As the movie progresses and we spend more time with the characters, Truman’s darker side appears. His desire to be seen as awesome by his friends and potentially by people on the Internet drives him and his ego to darker depths than his friends could have ever imagined. Although he is intensely unlikable, which is the point, Prater is absolutely excellent in the role and makes the character completely believable… scary believeable.
That’s what I think shocked me the most about Shooting April: this could very well be a trio of real 20-somethings going out and causing havoc for attention and ego boosting. I felt like I was watching a tape of a bunch of frat boy idiots I go to school with. The way they talk, the way they act is so realistic that even when things take a dark turn later on, it makes perfect sense from both a realistic and a character standpoint.
Although the other actors don’t get as much to do, they deliver. Eric Fagundes, who plays the group’s whipping boy Weasel, plays the stock role of the meek scared guy who doesn’t like Truman’s antics but won’t stand up against him. For a movie like this, a foil is needed, and he plays the part perfectly. Rachel Seiferth, as the April of the title, is absolutely adorable and is able to elicit sympathy so easily, it’s baffling. You really feel for her as the movie progresses, knowing what Truman has in store for her (or thinking you know anyway). The only wasted character is Doug, who purely exists because they needed someone to hold the camera for the beginning few scenes and he doesn’t add anything really. He’s just sort of there.
Shooting April may be a low-budget indie thriller shot in a visual/storytelling style that many are getting slowly tired of, but Tod Lancaster and company create a movie that feels authentic and flat out frightening because of its authenticity. The acting is solid all around, especially by Prater, who completely breaks out here and hopefully Hollywood notices. It won’t be for everyone; some people will either dig its faux-documentary style or won’t, but if you give Shooting April a chance, you won’t regret it.
Shooting April makes its world premiere August 30 at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles, California at 7PM. After that, it’s up in the air whether it plays more festivals or heads to a DVD release, but if you like the cut of this movie’s jib you can keep updated either by its official website or its Facebook page, both of which are constantly updated.