Starring: Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh, Michael Smulik and Annie Weiner
Directed by: Johannes Grenzfurthner
Running Time: 81 minutes
Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
One of the most scathing, yet hilarious lines on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” for me is from the episode about “Mac and Me.” There’s a scene where we see several old time radios explode and one of the robots asks, “What is that?” Jonah responds, “It’s a radio,” to which the robot asks what a radio is. Then Jonah delivers the best summary of radio before the 21st century, “It’s like a podcast you can’t control.” So what does this have to do with “Razzennest?” Well, if you ever wanted to know what it was like to sit around in the 1940s and listen to a radio play, then this is the most entertaining way to find out.
To say this film is unique is a disservice to how original and off-the-beaten path this film truly is. “Razzennest” is basically the recording of an audio commentary track for a documentary called “Razzennfest.” Through dialogue, we’re introduced to the narcissistic film director, along with several members of his crew, as well as a less narcissistic film critic. We hear them meet and greet as the audio engineer in the studio gives them direction. The two then begin to rant, rave and bash one another over endless images and b-roll. As the inauspicious conversation continues, the images and b-roll continue to cycle as we wait to see why this is a horror. To my benefit, and yours, I’ll stop with the plot right there.
I avoided as much as possible about this film, which in a lot of ways isn’t a film. Most of the action is articulated through sound, so the video portion of this film is almost secondary. When it began, it felt like what some podcasts do on Youtube, which is loop imagery or videos over the entire audio track. While some of the b-roll and images do reflect and play off what’s happening during the recording, mostly in the third act, it’s sometimes difficult to fuse both together when the images of a quaint village are smothered by the audible yells and screams happening in the recording booth. However, the juxtaposition is intentionally jarring.
I’m not sure if I’d classify this film as a horror because I wasn’t necessarily scared nor do I think most people would be. The audible terror can only do so much when the visual terror is nearly unnoticeable. Also I watched this at home and was mindful of my apartment neighbors so the volume wasn’t that of a 150-seat theater. I do see this film more as an experimental dark comedy. The first 15 minutes are clearly for comedic effect as we listen to the critic and director attempt to make off-the-wall remarks about the documentary, films in general and life. The director is clearly a blow-hard who reads too much of his own positive reviews while the critic is a clout chaser, heaping praise on a director and a film she knows little to nothing about. Listening to these two is like listening to your two worst enemies discuss topics they’re either misinformed on or triumphantly overconfident about. So when the horror finally hits, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for these self-absorbed doofuses.
Because “Razzennest” relies so much on your interpretation of what’s being said and heard, it’s difficult to parse what exactly the meanings are as the story unfolds. That’s why I found myself chuckling and wondering if this is all just a big middle finger to an industry of snobby film artists and their fart sniffing critics chasing their own form of fame and fortune. The scathing commentary is less and less noticeable as the horror elements drip in, but even during the film’s final act, it seems like the horror is also used to further demonize the director and critic as part of a flawed entertainment industry. It’s also possibly stating that the critics and media surrounding the film industry is some kind of codependent toxic relationship. I would say the meta commentary is a bit too narrow in its attacks, but I also believe most people recognize the obnoxiousness of artists and critics quibbling over artistic merits while the world burns.
Not to sound like the film critic dork in “Razzennest,” but this is the kind of indie film that could easily be the definition of an indie film. It’s hard not to think and believe that Director Johannes Greznfurthner brilliantly orchestrated a lot of what’s happening on film, even if it feels pointless and almost unnecessary at times. As I stated before, the film footage seems inconsequential at the beginning, but more purposeful at the end. I believe Greznfurthner did one of two things, he either purposely did that or all the footage is intentional. Because the film is commenting on my freelance work, I’m in a bit of a pickle attempting to critique a film that’s simultaneously critiquing people in my field. I do know that Greznfurthner also directed “Masking Threshold,” one of my favorite horror films of last year; another film with commentary on life and the effect media has on it. I’m sure by the time I finally figure out just what in the hell was going on in “Razzennest,” he’ll be ready to show me his next mind fuck of a film. And I’m ready for it.