There are plenty of moments in Greywood’s Plot when the film seems to be slipping into the same trap as other low-budget horror flicks, with characters discussing their depressing lives, boredom-induced hopelessness and personal trauma while facing monsters of their own making. Usually slowly. Intolerably slowly. Blessedly, that’s not the case with Plot, which delivers a jet-black hysterical third act that really goes the distance in both scares and existential depravity. It’s not often a film this small understands its limitations and makes the absolute most of them. Goddamn.
The story follows Dom (Josh Stifter). He’s a loser. Really. He’s in his early 30s, living in his mom’s basement, finding what shreds of a life he can claim to have by way of posting clickbait on YouTube. He and Miles (Keith Radichel) explore the world of cryptozoology — think Bigfoot or the Mothman — and sometimes fake videos out in the wood for internet cred. It’s not a great lifestyle. Nobody is paying them to do this.
Dom receives an anonymous tip that a dog-man creature has been spotted on a plot of land owned by Doug Greywood (Daniel Degnan), who lets the two men onto his land to hunt the creature. They wander aimlessly, waxing poetic about the meaningless lives they’re living. Dom, on the verge of suicide, is fully committed to the project. Miles isn’t so sure. There’s a lot of arguing, a lot of bullshitting. And then everything really hits the fan.
I’m hesitant to describe the turn Greywood takes in its final third except that it feels a lot like Tusk done better. It’s maybe no coincidence that Stifter, who directed and co-wrote the project along with Degnan, worked with Kevin Smith on a variety of projects. Did he see the end result of that film and think, “I can do better”? It sure seems that way. The body horror, the nihilism and the ending all play with a sharper edge.
Dom and Miles, in particular, feel like characters ripped from the pages of Gen-X slacker classics but viewed through the lens of millennial self-hatred. The film knows what it’s doing, thematically, in its discussion of Miles’ desperate need to be seen, but it never treats him like someone who deserves to be seen. He’s a loser. Sure, he can wax poetic about movies and memes with his high-school buddy, but is that really an enviable character trait? Miles studiously avoids anything he can’t control. He’s nothing to the world, and he knows it, but he steadfastly refuses change until it is forced upon him.
Stifter directs the hell out of his film, too, embracing camera movement and shot composition to create maximum effect. There’s very little point-and-shoot, especially during the finale, which turns completely wild. The gore is effective, even if it’s rarely shot in focus, and the body-horror makeup looks great. This is a very, very well-made film. This isn’t just someone using horror as a vehicle for their drama; this becomes the sort of full-blown, low-budget horror cinema that has made careers.
I keep thinking about the final image of the film, which, again, I won’t spoil. Many contemporary horror films — especially ones that fancy themselves above the grotesque — seem interested in catering to the audience’s desire for closure. For a reversion to normalcy. There’s nothing like that in Greywood, which fully commits to an unsparing and surprising character arc for its loathsome lead character. Mean, shocking and memorable.