Razzennest is a clever and pointed satire of the way films are consumed by the contemporary commentariat. It is also a pretty effective nuts-and-bolts audio-horror piece. Austrian writer-director Johannes Grezfurthner is known for his low-budget oddities, and this time around, it seems he has something to say about the creative space and community in which he has built his career. It’s consistently funny and insightful. Worth a watch.

The story is told in two layers. The visuals are Razzennest itself, an avant-garde art film created by enfant terrible filmmaker Manus Oosthuizen (Michael Smulik). Oosthuizen is a South African ex-pat whose fictional filmography (which includes A Girl Named Colonoscopy) has defied mainstream tastes and whose artist persona, like many auteurs, seems to define his reputation more than the work itself. His Razzennest (translated to Rat’s Nest) is literally 80 minutes of random B-roll shot in rural areas of Austria and Germany, open to endless interpretation by anyone looking for depth. One such viewer is Babette Cruickshank (Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh), a Rotten Tomatoes-approved indie critic who hosts Oosthuizen at her Los Angeles podcast studio to record a commentary for Razzennest.

The actual story of Razzennest is told like a radio play of sorts, with both Oosthuizen and Cruickshank revealing their own lack of substance as the film plays before them and spooky events start to materialize. “It truly is the Baby Yoda of anti-war documentaries,” Babette opines at one point. Her initial inability to properly critique Oosthuizen’s work while taking the ostentatious blowhard at his word feels deeply recognizable to anyone who has engaged in film discourse over the last decade. Hero worship of celebrity directors, quick takes on films that feel more aimed at feeling a sense of belonging with other online personalities, and just a general tendency to never dive too deeply into critical thought all plague the critical community. I’m certainly guilty of it myself.

Grezfurthner isn’t solely building a gun with which to deliver his satirical gutshots, though. Although it opens as a comedy, events quickly descend into an on-air horror experience as spirits start to possess, and devour, other people in the recording studio. The sound design makes this an effective horror experience and the characters, already likable in their buffoonery, are pretty entertaining in their reaction to their newfound circumstances. The fictional Razzennest continues to play through their ordeal, occasionally complementing the tempo of the danger they experience. It’s a creative choice that breaks the fourth wall a little bit but doesn’t really hamper the overall creative conceit.

It’s questionable how much the inside-baseball satire of the first act might land for audiences not as integrated into the follies of the film-critic community, but once events take a turn into horror, Razzennest becomes one of the more creative independent horror films in the last year.