Playing like a Hollywood found-footage teen movie by way of Funny Games' Michael Haneke, Matthew Johnson's The Dirties explores high school violence from a refreshingly original angle. Johnson presents us with bullied teens who plot revenge not from the typical position of introverted maladjustment but rather with an excited self-awareness-- after procuring the blueprints for his high school, one maybe-killer reads journalist Dave Cullen's Columbine. The book matters, but it's the fantasy-generating medium of cinema that inspires protagonists Matt (Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) to step back and reimagine their lives; they're making a movie titled, yes, The Dirties, in which heroes Matt and Owen kill the school bullies. Their video camera serves as a powerful tool, enabling them to dictate the terms of their own reality-- but it's exactly this ability that begins to push Matt into a realm where his story might become too real. The Dirties is not an indictment of filmmaking, but it castigates the self-centered insipidness of a society obsessed with recording itself. Johnson anchors the film in Matt and Owen's found footage, so we're forced, uncomfortably, to live inside the characters' heads. Matt is likable, not disaffected, and in him Johnson has crafted a disturbingly plausible picture of what a teen shooter might look like: not a hostile youth, just a kid who's lost touch with the border between reality and fiction. In too many other films, Matt would be a simple villain. Yet The Dirties also understands that the corollary of this greater empathizing is the fostering of a horrific narcissism, a belief that only the storyteller can be the "good guy."
Matt JohnsonMatt Johnson, Owen Williams, Brandon Wickens, Krista Madison, David MathesonMatt Johnson, Evan MorganMatthew Miller, Evan Morgan, Jared RaabPhase 4 Films