Slamdance 2014: WIZARD’S WAY Review


Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: TBD
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7/10

On the surface, director Metal Man’s comedic mockumentary Wizard’s Way is about two dudes shooting a low budget documentary about two other dudes obsessed with a dated MMORPG.  After spending some time with the film however, it quickly becomes apparent that there are much broader and more interesting themes at play here, which result in a smart, wry, and very funny 78 minutes.  It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about how to not make a documentary, and it’s a story about being true to oneself.

The film begins with a disclaimer stating that the following footage was found in a camera purchased from a thrift shop.  Cut to some very poor looking video of our two filmmakers, Joe and Chris, as they describe their plans to create a documentary about two men who dedicate their lives to an old computer game called Wizard’s Way.

As Joe and Chris begin to record their two subjects, Barry and Windows, they begin to attempt to manipulate them into creating what they consider to be a more entertaining picture.  This decision proves to be disastrous and threatens not only the film, but Chris and Joe’s friendship as well.

Visually, the film is appalling in just the right kind of way.  It’s entirely shot on what appears to be an old camcorder, so everything has a crappy VHS look and the aspect ratio is a jarring 4:3.  While it’s not pleasing to look at, it helps the film feel more authentic, like the viewer really is watching two amateurs fumble to make a movie with the camera they just bought from Sears.

Although the movie got its inception through the Wizard’s Way game, the film itself has very little to do with the game other than Windows telling the viewer what it represents.  As it turns out, the UK servers were shut down right as shooting began, so much of the film is about Windows and Barry attempting to move on from the game and pursue other interests.

The comedy in Wizard’s Way is hilarious if dry, dialogue based humor is for you.  Socrates Adams-Florou as Barry is the standout here, with nearly every line he uttered making me laugh.

Of all the various layers one can look at with this film, it was the exploitation of the subjects that proved to be the most interesting.  When Joe and Chris begin interfering with the lives of their subjects it becomes clear that they have no respect for these men, and are simply filming them because they’re looked at as an oddity.  Although they don’t directly do anything to hurt them, it still feels incredibly appalling, as they cross a line that no documentary filmmaker should cross.  This of course makes the film’s conclusion all the more satisfying.

There are times when you see a new film that just has cult classic written all over and Wizard’s Way is one of those films.  It’s brisk, funny, and a complete joy to watch from beginning to end.

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