Tech horror (Zoom horror? iHorror?) has found its satire friend in a new cheeky low-budget horror-comedy, Untitled Horror Movie. The title of the movie speaks for itself as to how grounded in seriousness the film takes this scary genre. As compared to similar films like Unfriended or Host, which found its roots in pure horror, chills, and thrills, Untitled Horror Movie balances jokes in with the expected supernatural scares. And from the looks of it, the film is having a good time, especially since it’s a passion project between the cast and their writers—Nick Simon (The Girl in the Photographs) and Luke Baines (Shadowhunters)—that was filmed completely in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Untitled Horror Movie takes place solely through computer screens, phone screens, and recorded phone videos. It’s not so much a found footage film like The Blair Witch Project, but it’s more like Host where we as the viewers are watching their conference call move forward. The film focuses on the cast of “Belle,” a fictional hit TV show that’s on the verge of cancellation (based on the clues, it’s about a 17-year-old girl and her friends carrying the spirits of samurai warriors). Fearing their show will end and them needing another project, the six main cast members decide to create a low-budget horror movie and accidentally channel a real spirit in the process. Hauntings, ghostly attacks, and strange occurrences soon torment the young cast.
The hauntings focus squarely on six people, where each character plays an overdramatic stereotype of young Hollywood. There’s Kip (Timothy Granaderos), the aspiring writer/director of the movie, the big-name star of Belle and self-centered lead Kelly (Claire Holt), the destructive Declan (Baines), the serious and blunt Alex (Emmy Raver-Lampman), the “serious about their acting craft” Max (Darren Barnet), and the airheaded spiritualist Chrissy (Katherine McNamara). The script doesn’t provide much depth to these characters, and beyond a few instances thrown in of cast/Belle backstories, you’re not going to get much more. The characters were surface-level sticking to their core beats and making fun of the Hollywood stereotypes that the world would come to expect.
It would’ve been nice if the characters had more room to grow since the cast has great chemistry and they went all-in with the material they had. In particular, McNamara shined as Chrissy. She embraced the ditzy role and gave it 110 percent providing much of the humor her character type needed. The same goes for Barnet’s Max with his quips about acting lessons and wild gestures, and Baines’s Declan who felt like the bad boy in the cast. And, we can’t forget Aisha Tyler’s amazing cameo as the network head, Bobbie Brower. Whenever Tyler gets to infuse her natural witty quips and savage deadpan humor, she steals the show. The cast as a whole did a good job. They had the pieces and the potential for greatness, but Untitled Horror Movie just needed to push themselves further and give them room to develop their characters.
The supernatural effects also needed to go beyond their small appearances. Periodically throughout the film, a shadow may appear or a ghost would attack one of the cast members. (Remember, the cast members did their own stunts within the confines of their homes.) However, there wasn’t much variety in the dramatic twists or effects; once you’ve seen one cast member being flung around, the fourth or fifth time becomes repetitive. And the lack of deaths didn’t help the case either. These “big” moments were strangely tame and lacked the punch you’d have with losing a character in a horror movie. Reusing the types of deaths, while maybe done from a capability standpoint, hurt what the film could’ve been.
“Potential” is the watchword that could best describe Untitled Horror Movie. The small team utilized what they could to create the movie under COVID-19 restrictions—and there’s an appreciation for what they achieved. However, when you compare it against Host, which also filmed under similar restrictions and filming tactics, you can’t help but see how much more Untitled Horror Movie could’ve gone in telling their supernatural story. A variety of deaths, more hauntings, deeper characters–the elements were there to take the horror side of the film to the next level. The comedy side had a fair bit of humor to work with, but even then, the comedy could’ve gone further too if the film wanted to flex its satirical muscles.
Untitled Horror Movie isn’t a bad film. It’s a simple low-budget horror-comedy that’s having a good time poking fun at the genre and its young Hollywood characters. The cast has great chemistry together and adds energy to every conversation. The film has the potential to be a better movie, but it spends too much time retreading the same tricks and the same scares. The film doesn’t fully push itself further as it reaches its climax; you’re not going to get anything new in the horror genre from Untitled Horror Movie. Though, it’s a fine film to pair with the likes of Host, Unfriended, and Unfriended: Dark Web for a tech horror movie night (you could even add 2018’s Searching to the list for a complete digital movie marathon).
Untitled Horror Movie is available to rent now on video-on-demand platforms, like iTunes and Amazon.