Deadly Famous opens with a montage of women murder victims, so it’s not much of a spoiler to say it’s the tale of a decidedly bent serial killer, who happens to be aging actor, Alan Miller. We learn that Alan was a very successful child actor, but success hasn’t followed him into adult life. In fact, you might say, he can’t get a job to save a life. Though Alan seems to be an excellent actor, he doesn’t help himself with his attitude. At auditions, he is pompous and arrogant as he stoops, in his mind, to auditioning for mostly commercials and public service announcements. He is condescending and belligerent with casting agents, directors, and fellow actors alike, eliminating any chance he has of landing a job.
In his spare time, Alan likes to place ads for young, attractive, female actresses and directs respondents to meet him in a park. As he greets them, he is also filming their interaction, and they all find Alan to be so creepy and unsettling that shortly after meeting him, they cut the encounter short and leave as quickly as they can. However, Alan’s modus operandi is to follow them and brutally kill them in their own homes, if they’re lucky. If not, he captures them and takes them home for more fun and games.
Alan has also enticed a beautiful, young, aspiring actress, Pamela, to rent a room from him. He graciously offers to help her to become a great actress, and the two do several scene readings on Alan’s couch as he records them. In fact, Alan records everything. He has a camera set up in his living room that he says is always on, along with several other cameras positioned throughout his house. As the story progresses, we also learn that Alan has a penchant for autoerotic asphyxiation. So there’s really nothing whatsoever to like about Alan Miller.
Pamela, played by Jackie Moore, is the only other character we get to know and there isn’t much about her that invites investment. Moore’s performance doesn’t elicit any emotional bond with her character, but I suspect that’s more a result of what she is given to work with. Anthony Power, as Alan’s agent, accurately portrays an outsider’s view of what a stereotypical Hollywood agent would be like. We don’t learn enough about any of the other characters, aka victims, to care one way or the other about them except to cringe at the horrible deaths they suffer at Alan’s hand.
Written and directed by Jim Land and Eric Troop, Deadly Famous is essentially a found footage film with the footage coming from a hodgepodge of stationary and hand-held cameras. Everything we see, is recorded by someone within the scene or a camera mounted within the setting. The format is like that of a true crime documentary, but instead of the reenacted scenes we usually see in that type of production, we get footage of the real-life activities, sparsely interspersed with after-the-fact interviews. Deadly Famous doesn’t commit one of the cardinal sins, or at least one of my pet peeves, of found footage films, which is the incessantly and excessively shaky and dimly lit shot. No doubt this type of shot has its place, but it’s only effective when used sparingly and appropriately. And in this case, the filmmakers get it. Because of the many stationary cameras within Alan’s house, we’re not faced with another major failing of found footage — the “how in the hell can they still be filming” situation. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that the found footage nature of Deadly Famous does not interfere with the viewer’s experience.
The story really gives us no reason to keep watching the film. Alan Miller, played by Daniel O’Meara, is such a despicable human being that the only possible reason to keep watching is to see if karma comes crashing down on him, or maybe, if you’re invested in discovering what depravity he will sink to next, neither of which held my interest. But there are two reasons I’m glad I watched this movie.
The first is O’Meara’s performance. He is pitch perfect as the self-important, immature, manipulative, psychopathic, self-proclaimed Shakespearean trained actor. He seemingly switches effortlessly between egocentric petulance and very good acting in his auditions.
And then there’s Eric Roberts’ performance as … Eric Roberts, an actor and partying friend of Alan’s. There is no discernable reason for the two scenes between O’Meara, as Alan, and Roberts. They do absolutely nothing to advance the story so I’m left to wonder if they’re sole purpose is to get Roberts’ name on the promo art and credits. According to IMDb, he has somewhere around 200 pending or actual credits since 2012. Even though the scenes aren’t necessary to the story, in a way, they are one of the highlights of the movie. Roberts portrays himself as an over-the-top partier, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and cocaine while regaling Alan with outrageous stories. One of the stories involves partying with David Carradine in Bangkok, a somewhat bizarre choice given Carradine’s cause of death and O’Meara’s character’s practice of autoerotic asphyxiation. Another one of Roberts’ lines is, “Believe me. I know shit about shit. 83.85% of every movie I’ve been in was shit.” Roberts only has about five minutes of screen time but he definitely leaves a mark.
I struggled giving Deadly Famous a rating as I was put off by the story but intrigued by O’Meara’s performance and laughed out loud at Roberts’ scenes. In the end, I have to go middle of the road – a little to like, a lot to not care about.
Deadly Famous (2.5 / 5)