The search for closure can have immense consequences, with some of them being so dire they get deadly. We bet the oldies knew where they were headed when they coined the saying that curiosity killed the cat. However, this warning doesn’t usually stop those in search of the truth. Coupled with a bit of inspiration, namely, a few puffs of weed, one garners the bravery to confront whatever looming enemy there is supernatural and human alike. Well, ‘The Murder Podcast’ goes down this rabbit hole resulting in, a feature that doesn’t fully exploit the genre it is based on, leaving audiences unsatisfied.
This horror flick is written, helmed, and edited by William Bagley and stars Andrew McDermott, Cooper Bucha, Logan Mariner, Brian Edmond, Levi Burdick, and Scott Hawkins.
The story circles around the crisis of a young man named Chad Thadwick trying to build something for himself whilst grappling with the feeling of failure to fulfill the typical standards of what is termed as a success in society while coming to terms with the loss of his father and the not so notable legacy he left behind.
Thadwick, played by McDermott, just like any other man his age, is trying to make it big in the digital industry. Together with his friend Ed embodied by Cooper Bucha, they start up ramen reviewing the podcast. They manage to garner a few listeners but not enough to land them a sponsor so their hustle can finally take off. There isn’t much going on in Thadwick’s life success wise or even romantically. He is stuck in his sister’s basement in a low-paying job that he hates while his passion lies in podcasting which has completely stalled.
This career path seems dim until a local man and his mother get brutally murdered in their apartment. The aspect of pursuing success as a male adult is also reflected in the murdered guy’s life. First, he lives with his mother despite being off age, he drinks and plays video games all day, he has goals stuck on his fridge to make something out of his life, but he never follows any of them the way his life was portrayed in a nutshell is pretty clever.
Back to the two friends, they sense foul play in the murder and decide to investigate the incident with the hope of making their podcast more captivating. Armed with their microphone, they struggle to compete with the local well-established broadcasters. After several attempts to garner information while his sister’s husband tries to have him kicked out of her basement, the twosome starts suspecting the local police chief as the murderer and set off hot on his trail until they discover that there is a sinister force behind the murders and Thadwick becomes the next victim.
The narrative centers on the theme of family, societal expectations, personal aspirations and a local fable. Thadwick’s father is perceived as a lunatic who wasted away years of his life researching about a certain witch known as Esmeralda, who was murdered a long time ago on suspicion of witchcraft. She was buried deep into the woods of the community, and her grave was sealed with a coin. Now whenever the coin is taken from her grave, her spirit is set free, and now she goes after the bearer of the coin and kills them in cold blood.
The story is quite well-paced, starting off a bit slow picking up when the killings start to happen, to the friends’ investigation and the police chief’s neck being snapped by an invisible spirit to the lead fighting the spirit of, it really sounds interesting but the intensity doesn’t match at all. A few jump scares are scattered across the movie, but Esmeralda as the villain isn’t bone-chilling.
The performances, especially the lead character, feel underdone. Thadwick has his shining moments, like when he figures out the coin has something to do with the murders, to check out his dad’s research, but his performances feel forced. He doesn’t look exasperated when he’s supposed to, vulnerable, angry or happy when the situation calls for it, or even scared, considering he is being hunted by a murdering maniac who has killed tons of people. It could have been because it’s a horror-comedy, but the humor doesn’t land home either.
Actually, Cooper Bucha as Ed gives the most authentic performance in the whole film. He is sometimes really slow catching up on things, but his naivety is so honest, his feelings relatable and he is really scared the whole time during the whole expedition. Levi Burdick tries his best as a skeptical cop with no social life at all who is always drinking on the job, but his character lacks the teeth associated with his rank.
The shots when the spirit is about to prey on its victims are very well stitched together. A worthy mention is a scene when the first victim is killed. The shots are swiftly switched from the flickering light to the static TV screen, to the deadly coin on the table to the victim’s face. All these intensified by high-paced music keeps one at the edge of their seats. Interestingly, despite all the buildup, the scene isn’t as scary as one would have expected.
The locations are a bit diverse, but nothing exquisite about them. They do not add aesthetic to the feature considering we are told the town is pretty peaceful and hasn’t experienced any murders for years. However, the lighting and the camera work try to inject some spookiness into the visuals. For instance, it gets terrifying when the lights start flickering all of a sudden before the ugly murdering nasty appears. The lighting in the woods makes one extremely afraid however it would have been nice to see the end product of the spirits slasher techniques. Furthermore, horror films are created to deliver macabre scenes that will leave their audiences crippling with fear.
At the end of the day, ‘The Murder Podcast’ has a balanced intensity of horror and comedy which basically feels average. Neither of the two delivers the x-factor as the audiences are neither left pissing their pants out of fear nor sprawling on the floor with laughter after watching this movie. If the performances were upped up, then this could have saved this flick with great potential from drowning in its own storyline.