Matt (Matthew Johnson, also the film’s director) and Owen (Owen Williams) are two film obsessed high school students, who are making a film for their media class. Entitled The Dirties, the film is meant as a fantasy that has them fighting back against the gang of bullies, who torment the two on a daily basis. Matt and Owen’s teacher is disturbed with the amount of violence and profanity in the film and ask them to do something more PG-rated. This gives Matt the idea that he and Owen should just remake the film, yet kill the bullies for real. As Matt begins excitingly planning for a school shooting where he “only kills the bad guys,” Owen gets increasingly disturbed at his friend’s behaviour and increased disassociation with reality.
The Dirties is a film that pushes the line between fiction and reality. The film is technically a found footage film, however, with the exception of a few direct interactions, the fact that there is a cameraman always present is ignored for the most part. While the film has a core group of actors, most of the film was completely improvised and shot in real schools. This adds a level of realism to the film, which makes the end result all the more impressive. Since the two leads are essentially playing exaggerated versions of themselves, it is hard to tell when their real personalities end and the acting begins.
The Dirties focuses its attention on two major problems in schools today – bullying and school shootings. It is quite disturbing to see Matt get really enthusiastic about planning a shooting at his school. It is even more disturbing how easy it is for him to plan such a terrible act, which includes getting a copy of the school blueprints. The film treads a fine line at making you sympathetic towards Matt, for being a daily victim of bullying, while also dreading the path that he is going down along.
The film also raises the question of how the media influences people’s actions. Matt is portrayed as an extreme film geek, who is constantly quoting and re-enacting scenes from his favourite films. In addition, the fact that he is planning the school shooting “as a movie” seems to be a way for him to disconnect from the fact that he is planning a terrible act. In fact, there is a scene in the film, which has Matt editing a moment of the bullies beating him up and comments about how seeing the act on video makes it seem it never happened in real life.
As for Owen, he is portrayed as the film’s voice of reason, who goes down a different path. Even though he’s the victim of the most vicious bully attack in the film, Owen is less concerned with getting revenge and focuses more on moving on, which includes courting a classmate named Chrissie (Krista Madison). Owen gets increasingly disturbed with the fact that Matt is “always acting” and does not know the difference between movies and reality. This puts a strain on the two’s relationship, which leads to the film’s haunting final line.
Overall, I have to say that The Dirties was a very well-done film and I would highly recommend checking it out.10 | LOVED IT