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{Movie Review} Mean Spirited (2023)

It’s the Poconos Baby!!

Before speaking to the quality of the movie Mean Spirited is yet another film take that has difficulty reconciling the entertainment power of influencers. Unlike some other films that seem to fall into the trap of portraying online content creators that feel one-dimensional, Mean Spirited aspires to something larger and more dynamic. It is a comedy for sure, but also a step in the right direction when it comes to treating influencers as real people. This movie’s tongue is so firmly rooted in its cheek that no one (even the characters) take it serious. If you expect it to break new ground, you will be disappointed. However, if you want a good time, coupled with some fun scares and solid comedy Mean Spirited will be your jam. It was an afternoon well spent for me.

The movie’s central premise is pretty simple. A failed YouTuber’s weekend in the Poconos turns into a nightmare when a demon joins the party. The movie tends to focus more on the relationship between former best friends, now turned frenemies (kind of) Bryce and Andy. A funny supporting cast of friends and film crew round out a talented ensemble. The movie is pretty short on scares, especially in the first thirty minutes. If the cast wasn’t so strong, it might get boring. It ends up ok, though, because the ensemble is so fun to hang with. 

Even as a caricature, Andy (Will Madden) is fun to watch. There is an amiable charm in his dickish behavior. We have all had that friend or colleague that stumbles into success. They are a step above, and no matter how hard we work, they continue to look down on us (ok, maybe that’s a little bit of me coming through). Andy is an asshole, but in ways that felt familiar to me. Jeff Ryan, who is all over this movie as writer and director and supporting character Bryce, really shines. Ryan is great as he leans into this kind of off-brand Alexander Skarsgård routine, which is absolutely hilarious. 

There are some legitimately funny bits to the film, and they are almost always character driven. They are often outlandish and will have lots of critics comparing these set pieces to Evil Dead II. They are undoubtedly funny bits, though, as I chuckled through most of the movie. . This found footage/influencer vibe that the movie’s aesthetic is working within is starting to look a bit familiar. Mean Spirited would make a great double feature with Deadstream, another movie that shares a lot of DNA with this film.

A Bit About Youtube Videos.

I am over pranks, especially those that are done to random people. I want nothing to do with your dumb antics, and please don’t use my response for clout. The main characters here are all about the pranks. They are the worst, and while I know they continue to be popular on some Youtube channels, I kind of hate them. This movie deals with that hate in a way that feels authentic. IE, they suck, and it’s used to humanize our characters and ramp up how much we dislike them.

The weird elements of this film (namely the cut scenes inter-spliced between the main feed) that we get quick glimpses of seem absolutely perfect for this type of movie. Each one feels a little strange, and without the comedy to connect them to the movie, they feel loose and unmoored from the rest of the film. They work to add an element of disorientation to the picture, which helps create some truly scary moments later. Technically the film is quite good. The storytelling is clear. The cinematography is beautiful, especially when it takes advantage of the natural scenery. I am super intrigued by the idea that the friends we outgrow are really possessed by demons. Sure feels like that’s the case in high school. There are a shit ton of people that look pretty demonic to me, and they all wear red hats. Weird.

“I didn’t know you were into birds”

Mean Spirited is a movie that is infinitely quotable. It is worth a rewatch to pick some of them out. The parody of influencers is done with a deep understanding of the style and appreciation for the creativity it takes to create content day in and day out. In short, it feels like Jeff Ryan and Joe Adams are fans of certain Youtube channels or at least understand why some people enjoy consuming that type of content. It is not the scariest movie I have seen lately, but it is still a ton of fun. It has a great little twist at the end that maybe I saw coming, but I still smiled when it happened. Mean Spirited is out now, and if you have ninety minutes and want to laugh, you should give it a go.