Updated: Jan 3
Directed by: #JamesMcKillop
Written by: #JamesMcKillop
With the success of the horror film Host (which still has the coveted 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), I expected to see more films/TV that took place entirely on Zoom, but Host remains one of the only films of its kind from 2020. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a shortage of Zoom content, though: there was Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart series that brought entire casts of classic films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Back to the Future together again, reunion specials from casts of TV shows and movies like Parks and Recreation, Community and Mean Girls, and celebrity table reads for movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused. So why the disparity between fictional content and nostalgic fanfare?
2020 has been a challenging year, and most people probably don’t want to be reminded that they can’t visit their families and friends in person. Host did a great job of authentically portraying the horror of our social distance over Zoom, and the reunion fundraisers gave people at home much-needed entertainment when movie theaters were closed down. Now the new short film Lights, Camera, Disaster tries to enter its name into the list of Zoom content but cringingly fails to make fun of those dreaded video interactions that we are now all too familiar with.
Lights, Camera, Disaster is about two filmmakers trying to rehearse their film's script over Zoom when the lead actress suddenly quits. Then it becomes about them trying to replace her over a series of auditions. Comedy is hard—and even harder to do over video chat—especially when the jokes are mostly about how awkward it is to communicate over Zoom. Examples of this film's childish humor: One woman who auditions for the part (and who very clearly looks like a woman) is told that they are only looking for women for the role. Get it? They're calling her a man! The filmmakers spend one whole audition talking over/interrupting each other for the entire call, which goes on for way too long and is just excruciatingly repetitive and unfunny. There are also two separate scenes of one character talking about the lead actress after she steps away from her camera, only for her to hear everything that was just said about her. Whoops!
The main actress flubs one of her lines in more than one scene, and it is still kept in the final cut of the film. Then there’s the hotshot producer who comes in yelling profanities with every line and who sounds like a cheap imitation of a Guy Ritchie villain—not because he’s British—but because he looks like a fresh-faced teen trying to be intimidating. One of the filmmakers later asks if the producer has turrets because of his affinity for the f-word, a tasteless frat joke that was dated 20 years ago.
Work meetings and college courses over Zoom are painful enough, but you are better off getting paid or learning something than sitting through this short; it’s offensive and crass humor mixed with its overall mean-spiritedness and bickering makes it difficult to sit through. At one point, I was so bored that I was trying to make out all of the film and TV posters on the wall in one character’s room. Stick with any of the delightful Zoom content that I listed earlier in the review and spare yourself from what felt like a college film project between friends where they constantly shout and swear at each other for fifteen minutes straight. Lights, Camera, Disaster is a disaster indeed.