Bryan Loves You (2008) – Film Review
Director: Seth Landau
Cast: Tony Todd, Seth Landau, Candy Stanton
By Sarah Morgan
Hit found footage movies such as Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project have a lot to answer for. Their success has spawned a host of imitators hoping to reach a similar level of success. Unfortunately, most of them have proved to be instantly forgettable.
Of course, the genre began long before those two blockbusters reached our screens, but in recent years, the number of such films does seem to have increased somewhat. The oddly titled Bryan Loves You, originally released in 2008, is another entry and, sadly, it fails to be either scary or thought-provoking.
It begins with an introduction from Tony Todd, the horror veteran famous his Candyman role. It’s a completely unnecessary few minutes in which he warns viewers they’re likely to be terrified by the supposedly real-life incidents they’re about to see – he’s basically setting them up to be disappointed.
The next 90 minutes or so claims to follow what happens to psychotherapist Jonathan after he begins investigating a cult he suspected has taken control of the small town in which he lives and works.
Its followers worship the mysterious, all-powerful figure of Bryan, and don’t take kindly to his interference, locking him in an institution where a group of pseudo-medics set about brainwashing him.
The film was written, produced and directed by Seth Landau, who also plays Jonathan. Perhaps it would have been more fitting if the cult had been named after him instead, seeing as he’s had such an all-pervading influence on it.
There is a germ of a good idea here, in which Landau could have had something interesting to say about the nature of religious cults, their impact on followers and the often terrifying experiences of those who have attempted to escape their grasp. But instead, he’s made something that rather frustratingly misfires. Also, the name Bryan hardly inspires terror – Landau couldn’t have chosen anything more mundane if he’d tried.
Some critics have claimed the film bears a resemblance to A Clockwork Orange, but only in the most shallow way – both contain brainwashing scenes – so don’t expect anything as stylish or hard-hitting as Stanley Kubrick’s take on Anthony Burgess’s novel.
Of more interest are the numerous interviews with Landau and his cast among the special features, including George Wendt, who’s best known for playing Norm in the classic sitcom Cheers. Wendt actually tops the bill, despite only appearing in one scene.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so critical of a film made on a budget of only $25,000, but this really does feel like a missed opportunity.