Nigel Moran’s Mayhem Behind Movies is a feature-length mockumentary chronicling the filmmaking career of Kevin Knight (Nigel Moran). Fresh off the production of Apocalypse Undead, Knight signs a production deal to film a romance named Valentine. The rub is that Knight needs to have the film done in time for the UK Movie Awards, or else he’s liable for the film and open to a lawsuit.
Unfortunately for Knight, his choice of producer is a shyster and a half, and things aren’t looking too good for Valentine. That is, until Knight falls back on the tricks of filmmaking that got him the gig in the first place (we’ve seen glimpses at the various other films Knight made along the way), and tries something daring to save the production.
What is most confounding about this film is that the short glimpses at the fake films within the film show that the filmmakers involved know how to make a movie, even if just spoofing them. To then utilize the mockumentary format seems lazy in comparison, especially when you consider the meta-filmmaking conversation has been done in so many other movies. I’m not saying no one, from here (or earlier) on out, can ever make a film about filmmaking, mockumentary or otherwise, but you have to bring something new to the table.
And again, it’s not like the filmmakers involved don’t have any skills or talent. The fake films throughout, even in jest, are infinitely more interesting than the fake documentary around them. I’d much rather watch any of them, presented as individual films, over this.
Which is what makes this review difficult. The mockumentary idea, and the storyline contained within it, is not a good one, nor is it done well. It boils down to “independent filmmaking is hard” (which it is), “the business can be shady” (careful who you work with or for) and “in order to survive you have to do something creatively daring” (which is also often true). But then the film ignores its own lessons, not doing anything creatively daring itself.
None of the characters are all that compelling, nor do they engage you on screen (there’s dry, there’s deadpan and then there’s just boring; these characters are more often in the latter camp). The “mayhem” behind the scenes is hardly madcap, mostly Knight talking about how things went wrong. It all comes across as lazy storytelling and lazy filmmaking, and it’s frustrating.
When filmmakers can make some of the other film-within-a-film elements, where they show real cinematic movement, composition and editing, even if the narrative is somewhat silly, then it’s hard to fathom why you would abandon those skills to shoot one person talking to camera about the woes of production. Was it budget related? Was it a self-confidence issue? Whatever the cause, what we ultimately got is a disappointment. Don’t make a movie about making movies, the joke is old now and the premise lazy, just commit to your talent and make something truly daring.
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