There are few categorizing phrases that make many a genre/horror fan shutter more than ‘horror-comedy’ and ‘found footage.’ I had one of each of these on days two and three of the Housecore Horror Festival here in Austin but wanted to, as much as possible, walk in with an open mind about things and see how it all played out. The first of these (which played with Andy Fortenbacher’s absolutely fantastic short, Melon Head) was horror/comedy They Will Outlive Us All, the directorial debut of Patrick Shearer starring The Big Bad’s Jessi Gotta and Nat Cassidy as two knucklehead roommates facing a myriad of dangers in their barely inhabitable New York apartment brought on by contaminated water.
The story follows Margot and Daniel (Gotta and Cassidy) as they stumble around their makeshift lives in a haze of indifference and failed attempts at everything from normalcy to life planning to probably most everything else. It is charming in that sort of harmlessly frustrating way because you know full well that that might’ve been you at one point or other or know people still in that spot. It makes un-relatable doofuses relatable by virtue of knowing you’d not want to be there again, or, that you’d want to escape as soon as possible when presented with that mirror, so to speak. So credit to Jessi Gotta for creating two characters who would’ve been easily dismissed had they been mean or overly self-aware or a host of other traps. They are both twits, but loveable twits and it helps the film work.
After a series of mysterious deaths in their building (or not so mysterious if you think about the title) the pair must face up to the fact that something in their building is causing a lot of death and is likely coming for them. Should either one of them been the classic action central character, this would have devolved into an action-thriller (albeit a silly one) with all the trappings of suspension of disbelief as a way of life. This film, instead, allows these two to be as they actually are for the lion’s share of the runtime. That is to say, directionless, clueless and pretty much unable to see what is happening. I loved that the film didn’t make them the ‘unlikely heroes’ once things get worse and instead made them linger in the stupid-itude they’d shown from the start. This feels natural and authentic.
Natural and authentic for a film about toxic water creating mutant cockroaches with a penchant for laying eggs in people and causing all manner of undead grossness. Their conflict with one cockroach interloper in their apartment in particular reminded me of some unpleasant mix of Joe’s Apartment and Corman’s The Nest with both comic and darker results. This ‘battle’ has a big impact on our two main characters and brings a bit of unexpected emotional weight. Again, smart decisions on the writing and directing fronts.
However, all decisions aren’t great ones and while this film earns a lot of goodwill for it’s soft-headed slacker charm and committing to the creature-feature center point, it makes a terribly bad directorial/style choice at its tail-end that frustrates me even to think about it now. I don’t want to give it away per se’ but just think about a clever sketch on SNL or some such the first time you see it. Then think about that same sketch in its 29th iteration and how grating that is. That about sums this up, but in a horror movie way. There is just no reason to double-down on a series of visual cues so beaten into the ground that even the casually initiated would groan. Save for that choice, it was an enjoyable, goofy, charming indie creature feature with a clear genre’ star-in-the-making in Jessi Gotta.