Mean Spirited Movie Review
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I have a love-hate relationship with found footage films. Rational me, the me that has to write reviews and explain in 400-600 words why they don’t work, knows they’re a gimmicky low-budget way to get a story filmed without the use of a large crew, experienced actors, or a script. Irrational me, the one that has reached the end of Horror categories on streaming platforms more times that she can count devours them like the empty caloric confection that they are. Found footage films aren’t here for a long time, they’re here for a good time and it’s not like you have anything better to do for the next 87 minutes, so suck it up.
Mean Spirited (2023) is that gem we spend literal hours sifting for, and even with some challenges, it’s a fun, funny, and genuinely scary film with some clever angles that elevate it from the pack.
Andy (Will Madden) and Tom (Daniel Rashid) receive an invitation from childhood friend, Bryce (Jeffrey Ryan) to spend the weekend at his big house in the country. Bryce has become a celebrity of some kind and he’s eager to share his good fortune with his friends. Andy brings the rest of his crew, Joey (Maria DeCotis), Nikki (Michelle Veintimilla, Frank (Neville Archambault), and Walter (Charlie Pollock) for a weekend of shenanigans and mild debauchery at the expense of Bryce’s hospitality.
Clear from the start, Andy holds a grudge. Once, he and Bryce were podcasters before Bryce’s star launched up, up, and away. Now with the remnants of that podcast losing subscribers and Andy growing bitter one lost subscriber at a time, Bryce’s invitation is accepted, but not with the gracious heart he imagined. Andy has every intention to both confront Bryce with the subject of their emaciated friendship, as well as building his own “Mean Spirited” podcast upon Bryce’s celebrity. Petty pranks to capture a social media audience and snide remarks for soundbites devolve into a weekend of hooded creatures, locked rooms, and the ugly truth to selling your soul for unending fame.
This isn’t just six random people – the dweeb, the sexpot, the muscle, the jerk, the final girl, and the sacrifice – thrown together for a weekend of alcohol, sex, and sacrifice. This is a trusted crew, a group that not only manages to be friends, but they work well together. Along with co-writer Joe Adams, director Jeff Ryan builds surprises into tropes around people who genuinely seem to like each other, making the inevitable betrayal a true sucker punch.
Mean Spirited leans heavily onto the familiar ground of social media influencers from TikTok to YouTube, using the editing, language, and sound effects of the media, giving it the feel of a random video cycled up in someone’s queue. The first quarter feels like being stuck in a long car ride with someone with an axe to grind and zero context, but as the revelers arrive and the festivities kick off, what begins as misplaced friends and missing time becomes a recipe for displaced souls and lost opportunities. I wouldn’t call Mean Spirited experimental since this isn’t a new style of filmmaking and there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the setup and execution, but it is a clear departure from films like The Last Broadcast (1998) or The Andy Baker Tape (2021). Mean Spirited aims to set itself apart from the cluttered playing field by focusing on story, sharp effects, and characters. It’s a worthy effort I can recommend.
Mean Spirited (2022) is unrated, but we’ll call it R for swears, sexy-times, bludgeoning, child abduction, dismemberment, torture, and possession.