SXSW 2013 Day 5 Reviews: Holy Ghost People, Reality Show and Grow Up, Tony Phillips

A movie review article by: Dylan Garsee


SXSW Day 5: Women, right? Women.


The SXSW Film festival is starting to wind down, because all of the movies that are being screened from here on out will be second- and third-run flicks. Of the films I caught yesterday, only one was the world premiere. The rest had premiered earlier in the week. I finally caught Holy Ghost People, one of my most anticipated, non-Spring Breakers movies of SXSW. After that, Nick Hanover and I saw the coming-of-age story Grow Up, Tony Phillips. Finally, I saw the worst film I have seen at SXSW, Reality Show, which my viewing experience was made exponentially more awkward, considering I had to sit next to the star of the film the entire time. 


Holy Ghost People

D: Mitchell Altieri



As I talked about in the SXSW preview piece, I spent my summers growing up in backwoods east Texas, going to pentecostal church pretty much every other day. While our church didn't specifically handle snakes, we still spoke in tongues and baptized in lakes and had massive audience participation in the sermon. So naturally, I would be attracted to a film about a major part of my childhood. The premise behind Holy Ghost People is classic, almost cliché: Charlotte, a young, spunky bartender with a no nonsense attitude searches for her sister Liz after receiving a distressing letter from her (which, after seeing the end, doesn't make much sense, but whatever). Charlotte enlists the help of an alcoholic former Marine Wayne, and the creepy, snake handling, 19th century-looking mountain church/compound they are lead to doesn't look to be all that it seems. 



The Church of One Accord is headed up by the young, charismatic Brother Billy (who follows me on Twitter, apparently), who would fit in quite well in Austin, with his vast collection of pearl snap shirts and slicked back Elvis hair. All of the church members are creepy to various levels, but Brother Billy's glass eyed stare is almost unhuman. I was less "Hannibal Lector" creeped out by him, and more "Buffalo Bill" weirded out by him, which I'm almost certain was not the intention. The film is a great exercise in momentum building, however all of it is quickly deflated once the big film has its big reveal. After that, it takes a strange half Wicker Man, half Walking Dead turn that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the film. However, I was never bored, and the film moved quite briskly, and had a great atmosphere, especially in all of the sermon scenes, which get progressively unsettling. 

This is the kind of film that will get noticed, but the follow-up will be the true success. There's a lot of truly great skill in the storytelling. It's just not quite all the way there. 


Grow Up, Tony Phillips

D: Emily Hagins



After seeing so many movies about death and dismemberment and Spring Breakers, I needed a nice palate cleanser. Something light and fluffy that I could kind of mentally doze off for 90 minutes. Grow Up, Tony Phillips is just that film. The fourth film from 20-year-old director Emily Hagins is your by-the-books coming of age story, Tony Phillips is your typical high school nerd with the exception of one major glaring difference: he's obsessed with Halloween. His obsession costing his relationship with his friends and family, but he can't seem to lose the one thing he loves. 



Yes, the film is cliche. Yes, there are about two too many plots. Yes, there are way too many montages set to vague acoustic songs. But it's just so charming and slight that it's impossible to hate. It's like hating a bunny or cotton candy. It's the perfect "fall asleep on the couch after eating too much ice cream" movie. While it may not be high art, it's likable, a quality not seen in film for quite sometime.


Reality Show

D: Adam Rifkin



Okay, let's set the stage. Nick Hanover and I split up after Grow Up, Tony Phillips, because he had to see a documentary on Pussy Riot, which I didn't really want to see. Janelle and Dylan Tano were at comedy performances, and my other friends were seeing Wavves (barf). So I was stuck with two options: either go to a bar on sixth street and join the chaos of SXSW, or see whatever was playing at the downtown Ritz theater. Naturally, I chose the latter. Cheap Thrills, which has massive buzz around it, didn't start until 11:45, and I didn't want to wait two hours. 

The other film, a movie called Reality Show. I saw the trailer, and it looked like God Bless America 2.0, which is something the world does not need. But I had no other choice. So I went.

The basic premise is treated as this sort of revolutionary and genius idea of making a reality show, but the stars, who are chosen at random, have no idea they're on a show, so they act as genuine as possible. The problem with treating this as revolutionary and genius is the fact that this is the exact plot of The Truman Show and The Visible Man, which came out in 1998 and 2011, respectively. The skeezy producer, played by director Adam Rifkin spends the film in a surveillance van with a crew, injecting various conflict into the lives of the family they're filming. 



I know it sounds hyperbolic, but I literally don't know where to begin with how much I violently hate this movie. I could start with the rampant misogyny (every woman is a shrieking harpy, a slut, or both). Perhaps that the story makes about as much sense as that Chloe Sevigny movie I saw a few days ago ("The legal department looked through the laws, and this is all legal"). What about the fact that literally nobody in this film can act? (It's as if everyone is doing their best to act like puppets. Puppets that can't act)

It's a vile movie that I can guarantee will be eaten up by the same people that like The Newsroom, God Bless America and Seth MacFarlane's performance at the Oscars. Tasteless for the sake of being tasteless, transgressive only to the ignorant, and evil to mankind. Please, please don't see it. Whatever you do.



Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on Twitter @garseed.

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