A malcontent chasing perverts can dish it, but can’t take it in this wobbly thriller

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Aug. 25, 2022

Low Life
Now available, VOD
2 out of 5

Let’s talk inside baseball — distribution, to be precise. When it comes to horror, the distributor’s name is a very good indicator of the quality of the film. A24 (Midsommar, X) is a no-brainer; IFC (Watcher, Resurrection) is having a terrific year; Lionsgate (the Saw franchise) is hit-and-miss, but you can count on buckets of gore.

Then there’s XYZ Films. On the strength of off-kilter romps like Mandy, Mom and Dad and The Raid saga, they are worth paying attention to. So I gave their latest provocation, Low Life, a shot.

It was undercooked.

Low Life is one of those films filled to the brim with ideas — unfortunately, not all of them good. The movie revolves around an obnoxious YouTuber, Benny (Wes Dunlap), who has amassed a few thousand followers by baiting then confronting child predators. His methods are broad, and may actually be interfering with police investigations rather than helping.

Benny’s unpolished ways get him in trouble when he invites a teacher home under false pretences (Lucas Neff of Raising Hope,cast against type). Instead of the showdown being a match of wits, though, it ends up being one of blunders.

While the premise is attention-grabbing, Low Life fails to deliver on its promise. Unable to come up with a satisfying plot, the creative team keeps bringing in new elements to push the story forward into increasingly outlandish territory (teen bait, accomplices, evidence, more teen bait). When your production values are just above film school levels, the script needs to be tighter than this.

The very unlikeable Benny is another demerit. If the lead is unlikeable, at least make them interesting. This guy is just a bully without the courage of his own convictions. Like most bullies. ■