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It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

I’m hoping that this review will serve two purposes. The first one is to let you know that this film exists and hopefully influence you to check it out. The second purpose is to convince you to attend your local film festival, even if IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS is playing. One thing that the co-director, who was in attendance when I saw this at the Salem Horror Fest, was adamant about was that this movie was to be experienced with a live audience in a theater-type setting, and as such he relayed that they had no current intention of distributing the movie any other way. This brings up an interesting point about independent film and how often the only way to watch these movies is when they are on their film festival tour. Often many of them don’t get distribution at all and fest audiences were the only people to get to enjoy them. That’s a tragic tale that is more often than not the end result for these movies. So, attend your local film festival and support independent film and filmmakers. You never know what gems you’ll uncover.

With that preamble out of the way, now I can direct my attention to co-director’s Nick Toti and Rachel Kempf’s found footage horror feature, IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. The movie features the filmmakers as a married couple who has been on and off together for years, and their gay friend Christian who is Rachel’s best friend. All of them seem to share some affinity for the occult, especially Rachel and Christian to frequently go ghost hunting and conduct seances together to try to call forth spirits from beyond. Nick, a budding filmmaker, has taken up the mantle of recording these spirit-seeking adventures. As part of a film he and Rachel are making, they acquire a run down duplex in rural Missouri. As they sift through the detritus left by squatters they start to see religious and satanic symbolism all over the house. Once they have the chance to explore the attic, they find a small makeshift altar indicating that someone was conducting some sort of ritual in the house. Absolutely intrigued by this, Rachel and Christian, with Nick recording, attempt a seance in the house. From there, things begin to spiral out of their control.

Like classic found footage films such as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the characters are what make this movie. Nick’s stoic curiosity is balanced by Rachel’s ebullient mania as strange occurrences start to happen around them, including the sudden appearance of a painting covering an entire wall of a room in their duplex that they dub “The Hell Mouth” featuring dark shadowy figures being almost devoured by a large, sharp-toothed monster of some sort. They are also visited nightly by a growing cadre of people who stop in front of their home and stare at it for hours before turning around and walking back to wherever it is they came.

There’s a great scene where Nick and Rachel decide to follow one of these people back to their home, turning the camera on them and wordlessly staring back at the woman with no explanation. Once the woman snaps out of her stupor and clocks that she’s being followed, she does what any normal person would do and begins to panic. This panic episode quickly devolves into a full-on breakdown.

For a found footage film, the camera work was actually fairly smooth and steady. Nick’s background as a documentary filmmaker probably aides with that. If I were to pick at anything in this film, it would be the sound. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and there are no technical issues with the audio, but there are a couple of choices the filmmakers made where the audio gets incredibly intense (e.g. just sustained loud noise) that, as a person with hearing difficulty, was incredibly distracting and disorienting. Now, I can imagine that was the intention of the filmmakers, but it just didn’t work for me personally.

I liked the characters. Being a married couple in real life, the chemistry between Nick and Rachel was solid and I really enjoyed the banter between them. Christian’s character is interesting, but his absence in the middle of the film is felt, and his reappearance at the end of the movie is equally confusing, but then again, there are times in this film that you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not. The found footage format really excels when you are telling a story that involves themes like reality distortion or piercing the veil to the beyond. Everything feels real when it’s shot this way. The filmmaker, in this way, also does some really interesting things by holding on shots, in silence, for longer than most people would. They don’t seem afraid to stay in a moment and let it linger. This also helps to heighten suspenseful moments where you’re expecting, from a beat perspective, something to pop out at you immediately.

Overall, I don’t have much in the way of anything negative to say about this movie. There are some funny parts, some scary parts, and the audience in the packed house at the Salem Horror Fest seemed to really enjoy it. I agree with the filmmaker. Watch this live. You will feed off the energy of the people around you and it will heighten the experience.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Reviewed as part of the 2024 Salem Horror Fest
It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This | October 14, 2023 (United States) Summary: When two scary movie fanatics buy an abandoned duplex to shoot their next indie horror film in, they are delighted to find the dilapidated property is even creepier than it appears. Putting ... Read all
Countries: United StatesLanguages: English
Directing
Screenplay
Cinematography
Sound
Acting
4.1

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