“I believe there are monsters in the world that are born to human parents.” –John Steinbeck
The social media age is the age of billions of people struggling against each other in a race to be heard. Millions of podcasts and YouTube channels and blogs and TikTok channels and who knows whatever trendy apps, all bursting at the seams with folks who want to share their expertise and opinions. You are likely one of them. And the more people put themselves out there, the fewer seem to care, unless you are one of the lucky few who somehow wind up as an “influencer”.
This is the world that Greywood’s Plot, a clever indie horror pastiche, takes place in. Dom, the protagonist of the movie, is a video blogger operating in the shadowy world of cryptozoology and the paranormal. He’s fascinated with strange creatures on the borderland of reality. Unfortunately for Dom, few people seem interested in his opinions and those who are interested tend to be cruel and harsh in the manner of most online trolls. The loneliness and rejection of Dom’s chosen world leads him to a destiny darker and more horrific than anything he could imagine. It leads him to Greywood’s Plot!
This movie’s subject matter automatically makes me sympathetic. I can relate to Dom a lot. I also write on some of the same subjects that fascinate him and have dealt with some of the same rejection. Dom is pretty much stuck in his mom’s basement with only his YouTube channel and blogs to occupy him. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. He’s searching for something different in this world, something to validate his existence. And ultimately, he takes drastic steps to achieve it.
Greywood’s Plot is the creation of director Josh Stifter, who also stars as Dom, and actor Daniel Degnan, who plays Doug Greywood. It’s a movie that starts in one place and ends up in a place that’s very different. It combines sarcastic humor and comedy with grotesque and absurd body horror. It’s a very quirky looking film, done strictly in moody black and white with a lot of odd visual detours and an effective soundtrack. If I had to describe it in terms of comparison, it’s like a mash-up of Clerks, Tusk and House of 1000 Corpses. But even that doesn’t do it justice…
Well, let’s take a dive into this weird slice of indie cinema. I will try to avoid the major spoilers, but some small ones are unavoidable….
The opening scenes of the movie establish that it is in black and white. I think it’s a great choice for Greywood’s Plot and honestly, this would be a less effective movie in standard color. We see a lonesome country shack out in the woods while a mournful alt-country version of “Home on the Range” slowly plays. On the inside of the shack, an intense looking fellow is stoically sitting. Something is covered by a white sheet and feebly gasping. It’s something awful…
Then we get introduced to our hero Dom as old family movies of him play. He is editing a video and narrating it. “I am utterly alone,” he says. “I just wanted to do something important.” Unfortunately, Dom fumbles his narration and cuts loose with some curse words. We already know this guy is kind of a dweeb. ”God, I wish I had better footage,” he laments. That’s the story of everybody working in cryptozoology and the paranormal.
Dom is in pretty bad shape. The video he is making appears to be a suicide note of some kind. He’s got a gun and is ready to go all the way. But just as he’s ready to pull the trigger, he loses his nerve. I don’t think this was the first time this happened, either. Then his mom calls him upstairs to dinner and the moment has passed.
Dom’s relationship with his mother doesn’t appear to be too great. He’s a rather foul-mouthed and ill-tempered son and Mom pretty much admits that he’s never going to amount to much. Confronted with such overwhelming parental support, Dom decides to hang out with best friend and fellow paranormal investigator Myles. Myles (Keith Radichel) is just as big a loser as Dom is. A video game nut, we first encounter him throwing away a vintage Gameboy in frustration when the game doesn’t go his way. Dom and Myles are lifelong friends and pretty much united by their shared uselessness.
A lot of the early part of Greywood’s Plot revolves around the pair commiserating about their state. The dialogue is comically ridiculous as they lament their situation over beers at the local watering hole. Dom is always on the verge of the next big paranormal expose. He’s got some exciting footage from a Bigfoot witness. The footage is laugh-out-loud hilarious as the hillbilly witness mentions that “he had a big pecker” when asked to describe the monster. Myles knows the footage is not going to lead to anything, but Dom doesn’t give up. Until he checks out the latest YouTube video he’s posted and sees 16 thumbs up and 115 thumbs down. The idiotic comments on the video are the same you would see on many YouTube videos, full of spite, curse words and crude insults. They are depressingly realistic.
That finally seems to break his spirit. But just as things seem to be at their bleakest, Dom receives a mysterious VHS tape through the mail from an anonymous party. The footage appears to show what seems to be a Chupacabra-type creature in a remote rural area. Viewers will recognize it from the footage that opened the movie. A note with the tape refers Dom to the man who owns the land where the video was shot, Mr. Doug Greywood. An excited Dom calls up a skeptical Myles and invites him to go on a road trip to Greywood’s property.
So, the two buddies hit the road as more dark acoustic music plays. We notice Dom has packed his pistol in the glove compartment. The only disquieting sign during the trip is when a strange shambling figure crosses the road in front of them as they approach their destination. They shrug that off and make their way to what seems the middle of nowhere, complete with an abandoned shack and the same dilapidated birdhouse we’ve seen before. They’re scared out of their wits by the appearance of Doug Greywood (Daniel Degnan) …who turns out to be a blandly amiable fellow in the vein of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. He welcomes the pair to camp out on “the back forty”.
Night comes as the duo are in their tent and while the ambience is spooky, nothing really happens. At first. The next day, they separate for a bit to look for appealing locations. And then suddenly Dom is ambushed and knocked unconscious. And the mood and trajectory of Greywood’s Plot changes drastically from droll comedy to nightmarish horror. Dom undergoes a bloody transformation while Myles spends a horrific night in the woods dodging monsters and encountering mutilated victims. Does Myles really see all those creatures…or are they just in his fear-crazed mind? That’s up to you to figure out.
The rest of the movie I’ll leave you to watch. The many abrupt and bizarre changes once the pair reach Greywood’s Forest caught me by surprise and kept me glued to the film. What happens is absolutely absurd and really grotesque, yet it makes perfect sense within the framework of the movie. We know from the beginning that Dom is desperate to be somebody, to make a change in his life. Well, his wish is granted. He reacts to his situation much differently than the ordinary person would, but it makes sense and it’s set up beautifully.
The movie is anchored by three performances. Josh Stifter is great as Dom, a character who is pathetic, arrogant, sympathetic and menacing in equal measure. Keith Radichel seems to be a natural born schmuck as Myles. And Daniel Degnan is just plain bizarre as Greywood.
The movie also has an inventiveness to it that surprises. Stifter uses a lot of visual tricks including split screen, found footage and dreamy black and white imagery to keep your interest, but it never seems over the top like a lot of indie horror. One of the most delightful segments is a bloody cartoon that tells the urban legend of cannibal hobos. That was very deftly done. Music is also well integrated into the movie and I guarantee you will have “Home on the Range” on the brain for a while after seeing Greywood’s Plot.
I don’t want to go overboard with praise. There’s still a palpable “indie” sheen that never really leaves the movie and if you really start thinking about what happens, the sillier it will seem. But the immediate impact as you watch it is there. Greywood’s Plot is not perfect, but it’s one of the more entertaining no-budget indie horrors I’ve seen and there’s something about its hapless heroes that rings true in the age of white noise social media blather.
Greywood’s Plot is available September 16 on digital platforms worldwide from Terror Films.