The extremely meta – and very funny – Untitled Horror Movie stars six TV actors from shows such as Shadow Hunters, The Vampire Diaries, 13 Reasons Why, Never Have I Ever and The Umbrella Academy playing… six TV actors. In the film, they star in a popular TV show that’s on the verge of cancellation. With few other prospects available, they decide to write and film their own horror movie, but in the process they accidentally summon an evil spirit that starts attacking them.
Directed by Nick Simon and co-written by Luke Baines and Simon, Untitled Horror Movie, was filmed on Zoom and the actors’ phones during the pandemic, with each member of the quarantined cast taking care of their own make-up, lighting and sound, performing their own stunts and acting as their own cinematographers. It’s an exercise in creativity that sounds like a vanity project, yet somehow it works as both a self-aware satire of actors and the entertainment business and as a fairly convincing horror tale.
Part of the reason for the film’s success is the commitment of the core cast of six, which consists of Baines, Darren Barnet, Tim Granaderos, Claire Holt, Katherine McNamara, and Emmy Raver-Lampman. The group seems to be having a lot of fun playing self-serious actors desperate to maintain their careers. Yet, even as their performances parody the idea of vacuous celebrities behaving badly, they each bring enough to their characters to ensure they come across as unique individuals. And although what these characters care about and how they see the world is often silly or thoughtless, once spooky things start happening, they and their relationships have been fleshed out enough to make you care about their shared plight. So despite a slow start, when the story kicks into gear the movie blossoms into a consistently amusing and increasingly unnerving horror-comedy.
In addition to the six main characters, starry names like Kal Penn and Aisha Tyler show up in brief supporting roles as agents and studio suits who both resent and need the actors, which further enhances the film’s behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of the entertainment industry. It’s a surprisingly accurate glimpse at the uncertainties actors deal with on a regular basis. This gives the film some added context and dimension that increases its verisimilitude, enabling it to resonate even as it gleefully sends up various industry players.
Early in the movie, McNamara’s ditzy Chrissy observes the fictional actors’ fans would love to see them together in a horror movie, and that applies in real life as well. Fans of these actors will love seeing them here, especially as they show off their range beyond their most famous roles. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the stars of the film or not, though, Untitled Horror Movie is an energetic blast. Funny, irreverent and smart, it has all the makings of a future cult classic.