It might be tough to think back this far, but remember wwwaaayyy back when I said Savageland would be the last POV horror movie I reviewed for a while? Well it’s been 5760 minutes, so I don’t feel at all like I lied, not even a little bit. *sniff sniff* Anybody else smell smoke? Also, it warm in here, or is it just my pants?
Irregardless (yeah, I know better. Just can’t resist saying things to vex some of the more grammar-conscious folks I know), I stumbled across Media Studies whilst a-flippin’ through the titles on the POV Horror channel.
To be sure, the cold opening’s an attention grabber—a hand comes into frame holding up a picture with the name “Rosy Clarke” on it. We then see her chained to a table. As the sound of something being sawed off of her comes from off camera, she screams.
Next we meet Charlie, Raz, and Jess, 3 college students who are about to start shooting their final project for a media studies class. Not the first time we’ve been down this road. It don’t take long afore their cyberbullying topic leads them to the disappearance of local lass Rosy Clark which in turn leads them to a suspicious dude named Seth Bridger which in turn leads them to an abandoned army bunker which in turn leads to mayhem. Huh. This path looks familiar too.
It’s worth noting that Media Studies is, in equal measure, neither the best nor the worst POV horror I’ve come across. It’s got its fair share of high points and clever bits. It’s also got some flaws—not egregious flaws, but flaws nonetheless, so let’s start there. For one thing, Media Studies is a 2017 US/Germany/Japan reissue of the 2015 movie The Cutting Room. Gotta admit I’m torn over which is the better title.
Further, the movie isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is. Raz’s Blair Witch Project “joke” (well, really all his attempts at humor) comes off as forced, idiotic, and perfectly in keeping with Raz’s character who’s so fucking obnoxious I wanted him dead just 10 minutes in.
He’s misogynistic, sophomoric, and dismissive/mean to Charlie, his somewhat over-emotional girlfriend (Chistian and Dani from Midsommar anyone?) who spends most of her time mad at Raz. What it is that holds them together is baffling. Rounding out the trio is Jess who’s, well, pretty much just kinda there. Seriously, it’s not clear why there are 3 of them unless director Warren Dudley was aiming for more Blair Witchiness.
None of this is helped by the story’s sluggish first half. At 70 minutes, you’d think things would move more quickly. There’s a good deal of sitting around discussing what to actually do. Ultimately things do pick up, and the last 30 minutes or so cranks up some frenetic tension replete with screaming, running, and subsequent shaky-cam panic.
Something else I thought was a problem turned out to be a deft little plot twist. I was convinced very early that I’d sorted out who The Big Bad was (so if you wanna find this out on your own, stop reading now). I knew, I just knew it was gonna be their media studies professor and assumed that the suspicion cast on the previously mentioned Seth Bridger, a suspect guy who’d been cleared in Rosy Clarke’s disappearance, was all misdirection.
I was wrong. So. Wrong. So yeah, well done there. And while the twisty ending isn’t, like, M. Night Shyamalan twisty, it’s still satisfyingly accomplished. It could also be argued that the whole thing is, in fact, just someone’s media studies project in the first place.
There’s a fair amount of evidence to support that idea: a score, footage cut from multiple cameras, more than a few film making references, and references to Charlie being the best actor among them. In the end, this is never resolved, and you probably know how I do love me a good does of ambiguity. Overall, I enjoyed Media Studies just fine, and if you can hang on through the first act, you might very well find yourself rewarded by the payoff.
BODIES- 5 onscreen
Streaming- POV Horror. As The Cutting Room– Hoopla, Plex, Roku, Tubi