Deadly Famous (2014) Dir. Jim Lane and Eric Troop, USA, 89 mins
There seems to have been rather a spate of movies that take a distinctive swipe at the Hollywood system of late. The most mainstream of those would probably be David Cronenberg’s wonderful Maps to the Star, and the horror genre certainly hasn’t missed the boat with the striking Starry Eyes and Jimmy Weber’s impactful Eat. It’s something that fascinates me, as someone with a real passion for film, and also as a big advocate and viewer of indy film there is a certain appeal in movies taking a swipe at the biz. Which leads us rather neatly on to today’s movie, Deadly Famous, which follows an ageing child star whose career – and indeed life – is taking a serious turn for the worst...
Alan Miller is our lead, once a hugely popular TV star as a kid but now a very intense and serious actor who has become something of a running joke in and around Hollywood. His insistence on taking roles seriously – even the tiniest of bit parts or adverts – is shown a number of times and varies between the comic and the frankly sinister. David O’Meara – who plays the part of Miller – is never less than terrifyingly intense. The house he lives in is festooned with cameras, and it feels as though in his own mind he’s never ‘off’ as an actor, never really being his true self. Or maybe he is, and that’s part of what makes this movie so sinister. This also gives a very voyeuristic and exploitative feel to some of the action, as though we really shouldn’t be seeing what we are. Throw into the mix a new roommate in the shape of Pamela Grant – a young actress who almost immediately lands a role on a TV soap, far surpassing anything Alan has done for some time. The relationship there is complex, combustible and uncomfortable in spades.
And wouldn’t you know, there’s a dark secret to it all. Because Alan’s gradually unravelling sanity leads him to kill a host of women, luring them into meetings in the guise of a movie director and filming them every step of the way in a series of increasingly uneasy scenes. This is a guy who really has the ability to creep people out – he asks the worst questions, makes the worst assumptions and using language that is so racist and sexist as to be utterly unforgiveable. This was a movie that I did like, but it’s not perfect. The pacing is a bit clumsy, feeling a bit slow and steady, almost documentary-esque in its early running, before really gaining steam in the last half an hour or so. Some of the nightmare tableaus we see in the final scenes are absolutely unforgettable – O’Meara’s performance shows an incredible dedication, and he is never anything but totally believable in the role of the demented Alan Miller. There are a few little side stories that never really seem to go anywhere, and some of the more comic elements feel a touch forced, so it’s not without faults. It was hard for me to understand exactly what two visits from Eric Roberts – playing (hopefully?) a version of himself – added to the mix as well. But for me this is a movie that goes a long way towards redeeming that with some fantastic scenes towards the end. You might have to stick with it to truly get the effect and impression this movie makes, but ultimately it’s an American Psycho-esque cut at how Hollywood isn’t truly ready for someone so full on and dedicated to their art. RATING: 7/10. Something of a slow burner that takes some time to really pick up, but once it does pick up it really rewards the viewer with some fabulous scenes worth a place in any psychological horror. The performance from O’Meara is a standout, which is of course wonderful but does also show up some of the performers around him throughout the film. It’s a strong entry into the anti-Hollywood, shattered dream school of film that is threatening to become a subgenre in its own right, worth seeing if for the stunning central performance alone. So it’s a 7/10 from me.