Updated: Jul 14
Star Rating: ★★
Directed By: #ShaneRyan
Written by: #ShaneRyan
Film Review by: Thomas Jay
Based on the actual horrific murder of a 9-year-old girl, Elizabeth Olten, My Name is ‘A‘ by Anonymous/Alyssa: Portrait of a Teen Killer is frankly a really shallow and horrifically exploitative, faux arthouse, morally bankrupt affair.
Written, Directed and Edited by Shane Ryan who‘s latest film boasts all about his career in making a host of seedy movies throughout his filmmaking timeline, I should’ve, in hindsight done some research into his career to get an idea of some expectations. Boasting titles such as Grindsploitation and a mini-franchise named Amateur Porn Star Killer it was perhaps a bad idea to let such a creator loose on what’s an incredibly sensitive topic and needs to be handled in a very specific manner. When wandering into the territory of a serial killer film either fictional or fact you’ve got a number of parties to protect or, and at the very least - respect. Be that the young/vulnerable who might be at risk from the nature of the content, or when concerning reality - the victims and ‘proxy victims’ affected by the absolute horror that was committed. This film in my interpretation, almost tried to humanise and explain the actions of the killer but I can’t see it as something that’s justifiable.
The only real merit I can find from this film is the production story - shot over 4 days on a micro, micro-budget on $300 USD, the crew did well to cover such an amount of footage but I think it is far too ambitious and while I’d usually waive that as a criticism, seen as it is a harsh critique but the film really opens itself up to such a claim. The amount of non-sensical, ill-fitting and shallow content that plagues this film is too much. I did like the naturalistic approach to cinematography, I’ve not got the ability to pin it down to a specific piece of technology but it worked - it made the character more ‘personal’ and was a neat way of visually realising the diary, the key piece of evidence that condemned the killer.
Now aside from the outright horrific nature of the crime and why exactly it was such as bad idea to ‘adapt’, the form and structure is horrifically bad, bordering amateurish. Camerawork is passable given it is deliberately shot in a handheld fashion but many of the other elements were badly advised. Soundtrack for instance, whilst it is largely vacant there were some incredibly contrapuntal examples, one scene for instance had a ‘swashbuckling’ shanty that wouldn’t be amiss in a Pirates of the Caribbean film or Eggers’ Lighthouse, I can’t explain how much it really vexed me. Now what I didn’t really find serviceable were the abstract narrative subplots. The Performer (Teona Dolnikova) and The Angst (Alex Damiano), the former has these direct to camera post-modern pieces which were completely out fo left field and I believe in Polish or another European tongue, that was completely lacking in regards to context. As for The Angst I didn’t click with that sub-plot at all, it featured some really graphically detailed, depraved scenes that were gratuitous (a point for later) and harrowing which isn’t a way of building character, nothing of depth or substance and used more in line of a ‘crutch’, nothing sincere.
Gratuity plagues the film as well, they don’t offer anything and frankly if anybody tries to use it as a motive you’re lying to yourself - truly horrific scenes of self harm literally every ten minutes or so, unflinching scenes of eating disorders and a weird obsession with the immediate follow up of those actions, leering over the byproducts. I can handle the gore but the intentions behind it really rang through - there was no purpose here and it’s offensive to suggest otherwise, they’re used as crutches at best and frankly it just brings me back to my major gripe with the title, you can’t justify the actions of Bustamante and her vile obsession with murder.
In all I found the premise was reprehensible and the execution of it was really amateurish and wouldn’t recommend it to be frank - if you want to learn of Olten’s untimely fate then watch a documentary, this my friends is not the way to learn.