Greywood’s Plot, 2021.
Co-written and directed by Josh Stifter.
Starring Josh Stifter, Daniel Degnan, Keith Radichel, Samantha Kirchoff, and Aaron McKenna.
After finding a tape of what appears to be a monster, two friends journey into the woods to uncover if the video was a hoax.
Anyone with even the faintest idea of how filmmaking works knows how incredibly difficult it is to make a movie without corporate backing or a generous budget, all the more so when working within the confines of the “micro-budget” arena.
But the new feature from Robert Rodriguez protégé Josh Stifter (The Good Exorcist) is a fine example of a film that makes smart use of its minimal resources, conceived by a director who clearly understands the importance of self-imposed limitations. If that sounds like a back-handed compliment, it isn’t at all.
Dom’s (Stifter) passion in life is producing a web video series where he and his despondent pal Miles (Keith Radichel) hunt monsters. Just when Dom seems intent on giving up on his dream project, however, he receives an anonymous VHS tape appearing to prove the existence of the mythic Chupacabra. Dom and Miles decide to head to the location of the video to try and sight the creature for themselves, aided by the woodlands’ reserved owner Doug Greywood (co-writer Daniel Degnan).
Perhaps best thought of as the demon-stepchild of Clerks, The Blair Witch Project, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Stifter even thanks Kevin Smith in the film’s end credits – Greywood’s Plot playfully injects the typical “monster in the woods” movie with a distinct indie hangout vibe.
The slow-creep into gnarlier body horror territory is preceded by an emphasis on bro-tastic banter between our affable protagonists Dom and Miles, who as budding filmmakers keen to make their mark on the world, one can assume might be proxies for Stifter himself, a director of clear passion and determination.
While the rat-a-rat dialogue is rarely hilarious, there is an appealing groundedness to their dopey chit-chat that feels like hanging out with friends. This authenticity is bolstered by Stifter’s scuzzy monochrome aesthetic and the film’s rough-edged technicals – namely obvious ADR and some imprecise edits – in conjunction with occasional cigarette burns and VHS tracking added in post-production.
Through and through, it feels like a love-letter to DIY filmmaking, warts-and-all, which the narrative also self-reflexively bends backwards to support, per Dom’s desperate desire to be seen in a world where everybody and their great uncle has a YouTube channel.
Despite the clear budgetary constraints, Stifter finds creative ways to add production value. His background in animation allows him to rustle up a couple of surreal animated sequences, ahead of a third-act delve into more unhinged body horror territory, achieved with a modest-yet-effective combination of practical and digital trickery. It’s all sewn together nicely by a neat musical score from Curtis Allen Hager, ranging from Deliverance-esque backwoods jaunts to more bombastic tracks reminiscent of classic creature feature fare.
The third reel’s left-turn away from comedy – save for the blackest sort – towards something more grim and even tragic may not be for all tastes, but the ambitious execution at this price point deserves commendation.
While it perhaps could’ve used a few trims even at 85 minutes, Stifter’s film leaks care and enthusiasm in every moment, aided by the efforts of his game cast, particularly Daniel Degnan as the ambiguously-motivated, leering landowner.
A charmingly unvarnished creature feature homage, Greywood’s Plot succeeds on the strength of its contagious can-do spirit.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.