Rating: 3 out of 5.

Found footage filmmaking is typically either really good or really awful, with very little wiggle room in between. Going into my viewing of Mean Spirited, I had low expectations based merely on the fact it was a low-budget, film festival entry. I am happy to say that I found a lot to love in this darkly comedic, smartly scripted entry into one of my favorite subgenres of horror. Co-writers Joe Adams and Jeff Ryan (who also directs, and stars as Bryce) present a chilling, inspired meditation on fame. Like many of its brethren, Mean Spirited examines YouTube/vlogger culture through a critical lens. Toss in some horrific, cult imagery, and you have one entertaining found footage flick.

Mean Spirited is a vlog run by the “Amazing Andy” (Will Madden, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Beast Beast), with a focus primarily on pranks. In celebration of reaching 35k followers, Andy and his team have been invited to the new home of Mean Spirited’s former co-host, Bryce (Ryan, The Way Way Back, Mass Hysteria), located deep within the “shithole” Poconos. There’s videographer Joey (Maria DeCotis), ultra bro douche Dew (Will Martin), nerdy-but-cute virgin Tom (Daniel Rashid, Beast Beast, Dead by Midnight Y2Kill), and Tom’s uptight aspiring actress girlfriend, Nikki (Michelle Veintimilla, Mass Hysteria, Love the Coopers). Andy concocts a scheme to shoot his first ever “blog-umentary” to expose Bryce as the desperate sell-out he’s become.

The biggest difference now between them and Bryce is that he left cold turk to pursue his Hollywood dreams—he is now a rich actor from the Thunderman series with washboard abs and a massive home. Bryce claims to have gotten this new place to reconnect to his old friends, and rekindle the flames of a faded partnership. Right off the bat, there is tension between Bryce and Andy. Holding the cards close to his chest and hiding his true intentions, Andy seems to think something is up with Bryce well before the bloody postcards, ouija boards, and egg-cracking hijinks threaten to ruin it all.

Black-eyed possession seems to be the name of the game here, as one-by-one, Andy’s crew is taken over by an unseen force. Authenticity is present throughout in terms of the acting and reason for filming—both essentials for any given found footage production. An aura of mystery hangs over the first two acts, leaving the final one to take on the majority of the exciting action, and the carefully choreographed biggest laughs of the movie. A unique take on one’s typical possession flick, Mean Spirited injects an Evil Dead vibe filtered through a subtler, Blair Witch-style technique. If that sounds like your cup of tea, it may be time to subscribe to Andy’s Mean Spirited vlog.

Mean Spirited screened at 2022’s FrightFest Film Festival.

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