I’m a strong female lead.
Fact and fiction blur in Gillian Wallace Horvat‘s I Blame Society thanks to an identical central premise catalyzing the projects her on-screen and real-life personas pursue: an anecdotal retelling of two friends joking that she’d make a really good murderer. Taking the sentiment as a compliment, Horvat sought to figure out if what they said was true by interviewing friends and family who know her best. A couple snippets from that preliminary footage makes it into what’s now become a wholly outlandish embellishment of what someone in her position might do in response because “acting” on the impulse became a better way to explore the possibility than mere conjecture. What happens if her curiosity does overpower her morality? The world surely doesn’t lack worthy victims for an attempt.
The film therefore begins with this alternate world Gillian sitting down with an alternative world version of her friend Chase Williamson (who co-wrote the screenplay) to present her latest idea. Leaning on the word “hypothetical” only gets her so far, though, when her “hypothetical” concerns using his girlfriend (Alexia Rasmussen‘s “Stalin”) as her target. Gillian isn’t going to kill her or anything. She just wants to pretend she is by staging a location shoot inside their house wherein she narrates how the homicide “could” go down. But how is Chase supposed to respond to this request when she starts it off by earnestly explaining how “Stalin” is the worst person she’s ever met and deserves to die? Murder or not, Gillian has forced Chase to choose between them.
He obviously picks his girlfriend and three years go by with zero contact as their friendship is all but destroyed in an instant. Gillian has tried to move on by shelving the project and writing scripts her manager is excited about only until he reads them. So with every creative avenue drying up while her boyfriend Keith (Keith Poulson) laments how the inexperienced women filmmakers he’s working with are daring to try and place meaning into their art when men “rightly” don’t, she feels as if there’s no choice but to pick up that original thread. Between Keith’s misogyny and that of two producers (Lucas Kavner and Morgan Krantz) seeking to bring her aboard their film just to have a woman’s name attached, “hypothetical” bloodlust gradually turns real.
I Blame Society unfolds like that initial scouting idea. Gillian has a GoPro on her head, a DSLR in her hands, and a cellphone propped in the corner of pretty much any room she visits in order to have excess coverage in case what happens within is worth keeping. This mockumentary takes us into her bedroom, into public, and on the escalating illicit adventures she pushes herself to experience so that she can see if she truly has what it takes to get away with murder. But it’s also about discovering if she has what it takes to be a filmmaker since those goals progress in tandem. This experiment becomes her subject and every angle must be covered to stay out of jail and record how she does it.
The result is unavoidably dark as the itch transforms into a full-blown compulsion, but it’s also very funny. Whether it’s scenes where she’s trying not to kill like those with the aforementioned producers or scenes where she’s with random strangers meant to diversify her “portfolio” and keep the cops off her tail, Gillian is relishing the ability to go for broke and see what happens. While Horvat is the first to admit she’s not an actor, playing a heightened version of oneself via caricature proves the perfect in-road towards acting without worrying about the constraints that filmmakers would otherwise place upon their cast. Seeing that crazed look in her eyes of pure unadulterated joy provides the energy necessary to let the ride take control.
Horvat is having a blast and we can tell. There’s a scene where she’s sitting in a restaurant with Keith and feeling down because he’s growing more and more concerned for her wellbeing and the inability to discern whether she’s crossed a line without telling him. He’s super serious and she’s frowning in response until she catches sight of the unwitting victim of her baby steps into crime across the room. Gillian’s face suddenly lights up like on Christmas morning before she very deliberately takes the cameras from her table to theirs to capture the drama with glee. It’s one of the first moments where we realize she has disconnected from reality. What had been a fact-finding documentary has now become about evidentiary posterity. The movie becomes life.
Anyone she meets is thus a character first and a human being later. Anyone she knows previously that isn’t comfortable with their role is thus “written out” or “fired.” Emotion becomes erased as interactions become solely transactional in nature. Can this person help her on her mission by being either an accomplice or a mark? Can they provide her the credit and adulation she needs before inevitably becoming another victim to the cycle that she yearns to turn her into a star? What she does in front of the camera is ostensibly a direct result of what people are telling her she must do behind it. This is Gillian taking risks. This is Gillian being that strong presence men want—just not how they want it.
Because what is it that Kavner and Krantz truly crave? They crave attractive, sexualized women taking off their clothes to sleep with and beat up their surrogates on-screen. They only use terms they don’t understand because they’ve been told by the industry that those terms are what’s necessary to fulfill diversity mandates. So they look to steal Gillian’s femininity as though it’s an object they can buy rather than a perspective they can use. And she in turn looks to steal the hubris of all who stand in her way by showing how those superiority complexes leave them vulnerable to true horror. Gillian is good at murder because she’s been dismissed as unassuming and unspectacular by everyone she’s ever met. It’s time to prove them wrong.
courtesy of Cranked Up Films