In I BLAME SOCIETY, a nifty, dark satire from director Gillian Wallace Horvat (who co-wrote the screenplay with Chase Williamson), a young woman also named Gillian is a filmmaker chafing against a world that doesn’t take her passion and her talent seriously. She can’t get her first feature funded and she can’t even get her boyfriend, Keith (Keith Poulson), and her best friend, Chase (Williamson), to support her efforts. She also keeps coming up against the glass ceiling of sexism.
When the film opens, Gillian is trying to convince Chase to let her film a scene in his house about committing the perfect murder of his girlfriend, who Gillian also happens to detest and refers to as Stalin. She calls the film her I Murder project, based on an off-handed comment from a relative that Gillian, with her singular focus, would make a “good murderer.” Naturally, Chase demurs at having his girlfriend the subject of an oddly-specific fake murder attempt, and the two stop speaking.
Fast-forward three years and Gillian is more frustrated than ever by her lack of options in breaking through in her chosen profession. She decides to resurrect the I Murder project, which she apparently has been so obsessive over that even her cameraperson, Olivia (Olivia Kuan), no longer wants to work on it.
Though Keith tries to be supportive, he can’t get her to expand her vision beyond her belief in the murder project, especially after Gillian lands a gig with two producers (Lucas Kavner and Morgan Krantz) who want her to develop a portfolio and give her all sorts of ideas for it, all of which are paternalistic and gendering in a way that really upsets Gillian’s creative, independent spirit. She wants to be the strong female lead, but no seems to see her that way.
After receiving an invite to meet up with Chase again, the two go for a hike and tragedy strikes. It doesn’t take long for Gillian’s obsession to overtake her life and for the bodies to pile up—all filmed from multiple angles and artistically, of course. She is an artist, after all.
The script by Wallace Horvat and Williamson delves expertly into the depths of female rage, especially as it relates to the difficulty women filmmakers still have breaking out in Hollywood. Gillian has to struggle and scrape by for everything in her quest to make that first feature and get credit for her work, while the men she meets seemingly have everything handed to them regardless of talent. The meeting she has with the two producer bros is especially infuriating, as it’s clear from the discussion that they’re in over their heads and are relying on Gillian not only to be their token female, but to do everything for them. All they have are their patriarchal ideas and their performative ally-ship (one of them mentions “intersexuality” when he means intersectionality); they need Gillian to do the actual work.
I BLAME SOCIETY is also morbidly funny. It feels like a documentary within a documentary, as we watch Gillian-as-auteur film her I Murder project, which showcases Gillian as an increasingly unhinged killer. The project film footage is signified by time stamps, while the “reality” of Gillian’s life lacks that signifier. That she continually films her entire life causes friction between her and Keith. Is Gillian making a simple feature, or is everything fodder for her art? Lines are further blurred between film and reality because the main characters have the same first names as the actors playing them. Given Wallace Horvat’s extensive credits as a video documentarian, the documentary feel is no surprise.
Wallace Horvat and Williamson mine satire from the inside baseball talk about the process of filming and from asides such as Gillian’s reactions to the camera whenever someone she speaks to underestimates her (she has a good withering glare). Gillian is so caught up in her identity as a filmmaker, too, that when she finally transforms from that to killer, she has to give herself a “makeover montage.”
There are also comedic moments to undercut Gillian’s grim new hobby—a homeless person with a sign that says “victim of circumstance” or Gillian writing suicide notes that brim with pretentiousness to cover her crimes. Even her rage at seeing her kills attributed to a man because a woman cannot possibly do what she’s done is wickedly funny. Who knew there was also a glass ceiling for women in the serial killer business?
I BLAME SOCIETY is a good first full-length feature for Wallace Horvat. She has assembled a cast with enough earnestness to sell the slice-of-life she offers up while keeping the perspective fresh and exciting, and she has good directorial instincts. She’s talent I plan to keep an eye on, and not just because I think she might actually be good at murdering and put me her on list.
I BLAME SOCIETY will be available on Video on Demand services on February 12th 2021.
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