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Case Number 15160: Small Claims Court

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Bryan Loves You

Anchor Bay // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // December 5th, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker loves you, which is why he's warning you to stay away from this video abomination.

The Charge

"If you feel faint or nauseous while watching these events, please look away from the screen."
—Fair, but needless, warning given right at the top of Bryan Loves You

The Case

Stupid Sundance.

Stupid Blair Witch Project.

Stupid YouTube.

Stupid digital video.

Stupid anything that was invented, founded, or released in the last 50 years that would make Bryan Loves You seem like a viable project.

Yes, in the grand tradition of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield comes yet another atrocious-looking, "found footage" production. Here, we have footage "shot in 1993" (and released now via the Freedom of Information Act—God bless America!) about a cult that sets up shop in a small Arizona town.

As far as cults go, this one's pretty benign: no ritual slaughter, no loud music, no property damage, no hidden cache of weapons, no kinky sexual practices, nothing that makes cults fun and edgy. Their raison d'être is Bryan, who was a royal child at some non-determined time and place and was murdered by an evil, royal-child-killing guy named Tanzi (rhymes with pansy).

We have no idea how or why centuries-old Bryan inspired a cult or why its members occasionally don white Halloween masks and chant. They don't really seem to do a whole lot else, though one of them bites a woman in the arm. Nonetheless, therapist Jonathan (Seth Landau, who also directed) decides to chase them around with a camcorder, understandably annoying them.

That's pretty much it. The cultists have taken over this town the way Disney took over Times Square, but rather than producing overstuffed Broadway musicals, the Bryanistas just pretty much mill about minding their own business, now and then muttering, "Bryan loves you," or some such other generic comment. Sometimes, a discouraging word about Bryan is passed, and a cultist will go whoop-ass over it.

We get no particular insight into the cult. They are insidious but not especially dangerous, and escaping them seems no more difficult than getting in your car and driving away. Why Jonathan gets involved in all this, or why we should care, is beyond me.

The draw should be the technique, the old "found footage" gambit, but here is where Bryan Loves You screws up the worst. A criminally inept opening speech from some unidentified guy tells us that this is Jonathan's footage, it's been studied by the government, goes on about the Freedom of Information Act, how it might make us sick, etc. (He suggests finding an usher to help you find an exit if the film's too intense, a cute touch for this direct-to-DVD product.)

While some of the film is footage from Jonathan's camcorder, lots of it isn't. There are scenes that feature Jonathan, shots of him shooting with his camcorder, and scenes where he isn't there at all. At first, I thought this was going to be something clever, that the cultists were also making their own movie with their own camcorders, and what we were seeing was all the found footage edited together.

No dice. Most of this is just shot as a regular film, with multiple (and boring) camera angles, establishing shots, and all the other standards. As a nod to verisimilitude, certain things—like people's last names and addresses, and the name of the town—are bleeped, just the way it would really be if the government had released this footage, or if you were watching an episode of Cops. The difference, of course, is that an episode of Cops—or an entire Cops marathon, for that matter—wouldn't bore you to near catatonia the way Bryan Loves You does. This is a devastatingly tedious 90 minutes. There is nothing to see here…nothing! If you hang in there, waiting for something to happen, rationalizing, "Well, it's a movie, something has to happen," then be prepared to walk away from your TV set embittered. If Landau has a story to tell, he's sure done a good job keeping it secret.

In addition to his star turn, Landau produced, directed, and wrote this. He whiffs on all four counts. Cult actress Brinke Stevens (Dead Clowns) and Troma producer Lloyd Kaufman have blink-and-you'll-miss-'em bits; an embarrassing cameo from George Wendt strips the luster from the words "Emmy nominee for Cheers."

Anchor Bay gives us what I'm guessing is an acceptable release, given the source material. The film looks like hell, but it was supposed to; it sounds like hell, but it was supposed to. The lone extra is a commentary with something like 20 people who all had various involvements in the making of Bryan Loves You. It is so grating, you might actually find yourself embarrassed for the participants. At one point, somebody (the "director of photography," maybe?) brags about how he messed up the camcorders to make the footage look crappy, like it was really shot in 1993, forgetting, apparently, that the cameras were supposed to have been new in 1993 and as such would have produced clean-looking footage.

Even with the relatively low bar set by other "found footage" films, Bryan Loves You is still crap—barely coherent, wretchedly acted, cruddy to look at, not scary, and dull as an insurance seminar. Like a middle school a/v project—only without the passion, artistry, creativity, and professionalism—Bryan Loves You will appeal to friends and family members of those involved. The rest of us can find something else to do for an hour and a half.


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 10

Perp Profile

Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Horror
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary


• IMDb

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