I was totally unfamiliar with Justyn Ah Chong & Matthew D. Ward, the directors of Wichita. I didn’t know one person in the cast though they’ve been in films I’ve actually seen. In fact, Wichita is a film that has only just come onto my radar. Once it starts you watch some guy trying hard to save his TV show. So he takes his writers on a retreat to try to come up with some good scripts. That’s when everything goes off the rails. That’s when this weird voyeur flick descends into madness. Of course this is when Wichita gets really, really good.

It looks like the flick played at a ton of festivals which is why I’m sad I didn’t find it earlier. The flick is centered on Jeb (Trevor Peterson) who oversees a slightly popular kids show called Amy and the Alien. The network heads tweaked the formula last season and those changes didn’t really work. The show is about to be cancelled but Jeb, as the showrunner, still believes in the series. He is given the opportunity to prep the third season and goes off to a writing retreat with his writing team.

Right away when Jeb is talking to the network execs in the beginning of this film you get that something is off about him. I couldn’t decide whether he was socially awkward (which I can totally relate to), if the character had ASD, or is just a weirdo (which I can still kinda relate to). And Trevor Peterson? In this movie he looks just like Henry Connick Jr’s more demented brother. If Connick Jr is ever cast in a film and they need to cast his brother they better look to Peterson first.

Jeb’s writing staff goes off into the woods to a secluded house in Aspen. The thought process being they all can sit around and work on the scripts. The writing staff included the gorgeous Raven (Persia White), Natalie (Caitlin Gerard), Clark (Demetri Goritsas), Billy (Christopher Wolfe), and Joan (Melinda Lee). Billy is your typical jock type who doesn’t seem to have the depth to be a television writer. Don’t judge a book by its cover, I guess. Clark is an older gentleman just trying to get through the writing summit while trying to keep his family together (as an ex-alcoholic his wife is at the point of throwing him out). Joan is an older woman and Natalie much younger. They seem to be not only be a part of the writing process but actually actors in the show.  Maybe.  I think.  I’m not sure if I missed that they actually are in the show or if they are writers just reading parts during a table read. Maybe I just missed something. As they don’t actually show a clip of the imaginary show they are writing for (which would have been cool if they did) I’ll just leave that plot point alone.

Jeb arrived ahead of everybody and when everyone arrives they are very standoffish to Jeb. It is like he is the very last man they want to be around but are forced to work for this creeper so they can collect a paycheck. And I guess that’s fair because before the writers arrived Jeb wired the entire house up with hidden cameras. He is recording everything and goes into his ambulance that he converted into a media center so he can watch his own reality TV show: Jeb’s Writers Retreat.

Things starts off awkward between Jeb and his staff and only get more so as the film goes on. I mentioned that Raven was gorgeous for a reason and not just because White herself is gorgeous. Jeb is smitten with the writer which is accidentally revealed to Raven during a writing session. She realizes very quickly that her creeper boss is REALLY a creeper.

I’m going to give it to Jeb. He may be a frickin’ psycho who is secretly recording everyone and a total creeper, but he is actually a diligent hard worker. Not that it excuses his actions but it seems like everyone else is up at this retreat being very ho-hum about the situation. If my job was depending on some kickass scripts or the show being cancelled…I’d listen to creeper showrunner and crank out some damn good scripts. I want that paycheck!

I had to stop my review here and think about what to write next. I actually found a press release which describes the rest of the movie as, “Wichita explores the pain of a modern mass killer on a frighteningly familiar level. As the voyeuristic director struggles to find dignity in a cruel world that has alienated him to the point of no return, this taut, provocative play on the horror genre leads to a disturbing, emotional climax.”

The reason it is hard for me to talk about what happens later in the film is that Wichita takes such a 180 just past the halfway point. I really feel that the logline helps sell the movie but also reveals a ton of plot in just two sentences. Basically Jeb’s actions finds him on the outs with his team which drives the poor weird man over the edge. I’m not so sure of the “alienating him to the point of no return” part of that logline. I think the dude is just weird and off his rocker as it is.  So when he then does something later it really seems that he was always capable of doing so. The man has a mental breakdown. Shit happens.

There is a section where Jeb is trying to almost find himself which then turns the movie into a cat and mouse game. So the film really is three sections: a creepy drama, a psychological thriller, followed by death and gore. It’s an amazing progression of the three act structure as the film transforms itself along with its antagonist. It’s also fun that our antagonist is the main character.

If there was anything I didn’t like about this film it is that the writing staff itself seemed to fit into typical stereotypical movie roles. Understanding old woman. Bitter alcoholic trying to stay clean. Jocky douchebag. Brunette hottie with the tattoos who doesn’t take crap because she has tattoos. Round off the cast with a cutesy blonde. I just feel that the filmmakers were not able to convey that these characters were actually writers working on a kids show. I got their stereotypical attributes. I got why they were that way as it served a purpose in the film. But as writers? I didn’t buy it. I can buy a showrunner losing his marbles and going on a vicious murder spree. I don’t buy that Jocky McDouche is a screenwriter who works on the kids show Amy and the Alien.

Beyond that the film is very effective. I was really creeped out by Trevor Peterson who really turned in a wonderful performance. The dude has some acting chops and was able to convey the character in several different forms. He deserves accolades that he is probably never going to get. Hopefully it does land Peterson more roles in the future.  If it does I will watch those movies.  He’s one hell of a great actor.

Looking for something to watch to get you in the Halloween spirit? Give Wichita a try. It’s a great psychological thriller drama horror. It’s a bit hard to pin down which I think works completely in the film’s favor.  It’s a wonderful film that will keep you guessing up until the very end.

RANK: A-

IT IS TIME FOR A CONTEST! I have one digital copy of Wichita that can be redeemed on iTunes. To win write an email to 2guys1reviewcontest@gmail.com with the subject line WICHITA CONTEST. For good measure tell me your favorite horror movie of all timejust because I’m interested! All submissions must be received NLT 12PM on 10/30/2017. One lucky winner will be announced on our Twitter page and receive their Wichita iTunes code just in time for Halloween. Watch the trailer for Wichita below. And GOOD LUCK!

 

Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/2Guys1Review
Follow us on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/2Guys1Review
Follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/2Guys1Review
Follow us on Vidme: http://www.vidme.com/2Guys1Review
Click here to follow us on YouTube.