With a production budget of just $10,000, it’s a testament to its creativity that The Dirties has received any kind of a release. It’s indier than indie, using its low fi production to its creative advantage and just on the borderline of being something really special.
The film centres on Matt (played by director Matthew Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams), high schoolers harassed by a group of bullies they call ‘The Dirties’. For their studies, they make a pretty dreadful film fictionalising versions of themselves getting violent revenge on their bullies. So to recap, you have the real Matt Johnson directing and acting as a fictionalised version of himself, directing and acting as a fictionalised version of himself. The line between reality and fiction is blurred completely and the camera work is deliberately impulsive, with scenes taking place around people clearly unaware that an actual film is being shot, which makes it all feel even more natural.
It’s essentially a comedy and it’s clearly the sort of comedy written and completely unfiltered by Johnson, with the purpose of making himself laugh, which has its advantages of being unique and off kilter but it can also feel like we’ve been thrust inside a mind that is working on its own wavelength. The fictionalised Matt gets more and more engrossed in his project, obsessing over the camera almost like a deity, coming up with increasingly unnerving suggestions which move into his reality. Very rapidly, it goes from feeling lightly humorous to deeply unsettling and tonally it doesn’t all fit together as you don’t quite have the feeling of being hit by a steam train that the final scene should have provided. However, the pieces are intriguing to digest and its thematically rich and an inventive piece of Canadian cinema.
The film was followed by a Q&A with Johnson who was really charming company and with a brain clearly wired to just do things his own way, his future projects are certainly going to be worth watching out for.
The Dirties has a limited release in the UK. Running time 83 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank