RWD (2015)


Studio:       Osiris Entertainment
Director:    Matt Stuertz
Writer:       Matt Stuertz, Adam Hartley
Producer:  Matt Stuertz
Stars:     Adam Hartley, Matt Stuertz

Review Score:


Two young men recording a ghost hunting TV show uncover a mysterious portal capable of creating duplicate versions of themselves. 



I don’t wish to dump all over “RWD.”  It seems an earnest effort that doesn’t deserve ire or ill will.  Its homemade aesthetic is just too lo-fi to earn a “worth watching” recommendation.

“RWD” is a DIY “found footage” film produced almost entirely by one person, Matt Stuertz, a hungry filmmaker doing so much himself it is comical to even bother with credits that mostly just list his name two-dozen times.  (The other five minutes of end credits are a scroll of sound effect samples used throughout the movie.)  Stuertz shares writing and acting duties with only one other person, Adam Hartley.  Together, the two young men mount an overachieving endeavor that doesn’t want for good intentions, but has low production quality and entertainment value to show for it.

Chris and Ricky are an amateur documentarian duo behind the webseries “Ghost Goofs.”  They’re in the reportedly haunted Brut Woods to investigate an urban legend involving a stranded man who turned cannibal on his own family in order to survive.  Chris and Ricky don’t find the interview subjects they are looking for, but they do find some fleeting shadows in the distance.  Ricky also starts receiving cryptic messages from a voice that belongs to Chris, which should be impossible since his friend is standing right in front of him.

The film’s first twenty minutes are a highlight reel of common complaints for slow slog “found footage” first acts.  Chris and Ricky wander through trees, debate the merits of Gold Bond powder, become distracted by a dog, and engage in assorted other scenes of time-killing exposition.  What’s worse is even “RWD” knows how unimportant it all is as virtually all the buildup about this killer cannibal is thrown away when gears shift in a different direction.

The core concept of “RWD” doesn’t take center stage until the movie hits its midpoint.  Chris and Ricky stumble on a strange silo amidst a copse of trees and decide to refocus their ghost hunt on an exploration of the rundown building.  Inside, they impossibly encounter alternate versions of themselves before being mysteriously sent back in time to earlier in the day.  Chris and Ricky discover they have found a way to relive the previous few hours, except they now share this time loop with their earlier selves.

While not wholly unique, this time paradox combined with encountering past selves is a terrific “Twilight Zone” concept for a sci-fi/horror hook.  The issue is, “RWD” has no plausible plan for setting the premise in motion and even less of an escape route for tying it up on the other end.  It’s essentially a short film caught up in unfocused bookends that fluff up the runtime without enhancing the story.

Infinite imaginative possibilities exist at this point.  What do Chris and Ricky do?  After showing very little shock at the improbable turn of events, they decide the next best course of action is: to prank their doppelgangers from a distance in hopes of scaring the pants off them.  Yes, despite being initially amiable personalities, Chris and Ricky turn into obnoxious fratboy doofuses who use the discovery of a lifetime to haze their other selves, hoping to determine once and for all which of them is the bigger “p*ssy.”  (Their word.)

Things escalate into out of control chaos when the pair creates more duplicates than they can handle, necessitating use of a knife then a gun to whittle down their numbers.  “RWD” gets dark during this denouement, but by then, the narrative is so far off the rails that coherence is lost further in a flurry of digital blood squibs and post-production distractions.  It’s as though the movie goes out of its way to annoy with noises from cellphone screams and excessively screeching video static that if I never hear again, it will still be too soon.

If this were a student film showcasing Matt Stuertz’s ambition, faults would be easier to forgive.  As a commercial release charging money to rent, well, let’s simply say “RWD” is a case of a fledgling filmmaker letting enthusiasm run away from him when a skeletal script and slim resources have no chance of keeping up.

Stuertz’s sincerity nevertheless echoes that of similarly-spirited DIY director Mickey Keating.  Coincidentally, Stuertz’s next feature “Tonight She Comes” includes work by Keating collaborators Wojciech Golczewski and Shawn Duffy.  Hopefully Stuertz evolves in a creative direction where further films feel more focused and fully developed.  A healthy heaping of professional polish certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

Review Score:  30