Here’s the thing about The Dirties. Upon first viewing as you watch the credits roll, it’s hard not to contemplate everything you’ve seen, trying to digest it all. You walk away from it fully recognizing it for the brilliant film it is. But then the next day it hits you harder. And the day after that—harder still. It is one of those films that sits with you long after the final credits have rolled, and for me, I think that’s one of the most impressive traits of film; when it can get inside your head and fester, leaving a lasting impression. In my opinion, some of the best art is that which makes you think, and reexamine your situation. In this respect, The Dirties is a masterpiece.
Serving as director, writer, and co-star of the film, Matt Johnson delivers a haunting, poignant, and eerily relatable look at youth psychology in The Dirties, as the film takes us inside the minds of two high school film enthusiasts, Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) who are the never ending targets of bullying by a group they call The Dirties.
The two create a fantasy revenge film for class, in which they slay their enemies. However, at the rejection of classmates and their teacher, the story takes a dark turn as Matt begins plotting the real life version of the film, setting out to kill “only the bad guys.”
Now, I won’t claim to be a film critic but I will say that 7 years out of high school, the realities this film places on bullying and its long-term effects still hit me like a ton of bricks. The film takes a grim look into the world of school shootings, and there is an undeniable poignancy with which Johnson does this. Balancing harsh truths with empathetic overtones, it’s impossible not to feel for these characters, and as the film takes turn after turn, becoming uncomfortably more real, the empathy never fades.
Even more impressive is the style in which Johnson does this. Although the film’s focus is without a doubt a serious topic, Johnson has found a way to incorporate comedic timing, which will have the viewer laughing for the first 60 minutes of the film—never taking away from the plot or cheapening its effect. Impressively, the deeper into Matt’s mind you delve, the clearer his disconnect with reality becomes. There are no major personality changes, no clear breakdowns. It is simply the viewer gaining access to Matt’s innermost workings which provides this chilling realization.
I wish I could express to you all the little moments that make this movie the stunning success I believe it to be. But to do that would be an incredible injustice to the movie and future viewers. But know this. When The Dirties hits theaters and VOD on October 4th, you’ll want to see it. And you’ll want to share it with others, and talk about its impact. When that happens, we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
The Dirties, winner of the Best Narrative Feature and Spirit of Slamdance Award at the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival, is available in select theaters and VOD October 4. You can find more information here.
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