– By Kriss Pickering
I don’t know about you, my dear readers, but as a horror fan I get really fed up of feeling like I’m being taken the piss out of by some film makers. It’s been the same for years. It feels like if a tin pot production company or hack of a director wants to make a quick, easy buck they gravitate to the horror genre, knowing its fans are passionate and are willing to give almost anything a try.
But then, once in a while a film is released that restores your faith in the industry. A film that oozes class and radiates with the love and attention its director has obviously poured into it. It doesn’t even matter that the film in question has its flaws, because you can just sense that it was made for the right reasons, and not just to fleece passionate horror fans of their hard earned cash!
The film I’m speaking of above is talented writer and director Kate Shenton’s debut feature, Egomaniac. With Egomaniac, Shenton has created a brutally honest “mockumentary” looking into the ups and downs experienced during the creation of low budget, independent films.
The film introduces us to film maker Catherine Sweeney (Nic Lamont, who also worked with Shenton on her 2015 short, Send In The Clowns), a talented young film maker who already has credits for a short film and a documentary to her name, but more than anything wants to make a zombie flick. Unfortunately for Catherine though, her previous work hasn’t been as successful as she had hoped, so her dream project remains just that…a dream.
Catherine’s luck, however, appears to be taking a turn for the better after she is promised £1,000,000 worth of funding by Derek (Simeon Willis), your stereotypically sleazy millionaire investor, and additional backing from down on his luck producer Nathan (Adam Rhys-Davies) to make her project. This backing comes at a price though, but if she wants her dream to become reality, Catherine agrees to these “small” compromises!
One of the first demands Derek makes is to create a fully animated, 3D talking dog. Although she is uncomfortable with this demand, she accepts the caveat, as the chance to make this movie is too good to pass up. From here, we follow our intrepid film maker through a year of “development hell” as she struggles to transfer her vision into a coherent script, and as a result of the stress becomes more and more reliant on alcohol to get her through.
As the production spirals more and more out of control, Catherine’s grasp on both her dream film and reality weakens. The very people she brought on board to help her make the project a reality start to rubbish her efforts and try to get her thrown off her own movie. Catherine, however, has other ideas. Determined to see her baby through to completion, she plots revenge on those that turned against her…
Make no bones about it, Egomaniac is a very close to the bone, satirical prod at an industry that has always been a cutthroat one. Although Shenton uses plenty of hyperbole to get her point across, you can feel the pain Catherine is going through as her baby is being pulled apart and changed while her feelings and opinions are pushed to one side.
Then there is the seedier side of the industry, where she is quite literally being used by the people who hold her career in their hands. The funding that has been promised by Derek is simply a front to try and get her into bed, and her producer Nathan is homeless and using her to get himself back on his feet. It gets to the point where I was literally willing Catherine to shake herself and take the control back that has been taken from her by these industry sharks.
It’s a testament to Kate Shenton’s writing and directing that in a film that has its satire levels turned up to 11 (Spinal Tap reference!), I invested in Catherine’s journey as much as I did. I felt she got the balance between the dark humour and the emotional gut punches spot on. For example, when she goes to a showing of her short film at a festival, and only a few people turn up to watch. You feel so sorry for her, but also can’t help but enjoy the humour in it at the same time.
But as with any film, a script is nothing without a good cast, and Shenton has put together a solid list of performers for Egomaniac. Nic Lamont absolutely shines as lead Catherine Sweeney, giving the character intelligence and humour in equal parts. She makes the character so likeable that you begin to hate the people taking advantage of her. Opposite her is Adam Rhys-Davies who plays the homeless producer Nathan. Nathan is the heartbeat of the humorous side of Egomaniac. His constant offerings of comically bad advice sets up many of Catherine’s most humorous moments.
It’s a credit to the writing ability of Shenton though that every character in the film is brilliantly written and all have a purpose.
I can’t say the film is perfect though. I thought there were certain scenes that went on for too long, but this is usually the case with “mockumentaries” due to the improvised nature of the material. Also, I felt that on more than one occasion scenes could have done without the comedic punchlines to them. An example of where the film worked well without a punchline is when Catherine was about to kill the in-film leading man. When he gave her permission to kill him as he was considering suicide anyway, was a poignant, heart wrenching moment and worked brilliantly. It’s a shame there weren’t more scenes like this.
But to sum up, I thought Egomaniac was a brilliantly written and well executed piece of satire. Kate Shenton has obviously put her heart and soul into the script and it shows. It’s the first project of Shenton’s that I have seen and I hope that Egomaniac is a massive success, not only because I feel that it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, but also because I want to see more from this ultra talented film maker!