We do not normally cover films here at Mind Equals Blown, but we were so moved by The Dirties that we decided to do an official review of it – which you can read here. In addition, a few of us wanted to discuss what makes it so important in today’s society – and why everyone reading this should see it at least once. You can watch a trailer for the film below and grab a copy of the Special Edition, which releases on April 29, right here.
Eric Spitz’s Thoughts:
Bullying within the school system is a subject that has been brought up many times through the medium of books and movies. Though the subject matter is nothing unfamiliar to audience members, Matt Johnson’s eerie documentary-fiction style film The Dirties brings something new to the table – having a virtual inception of a movie within a movie.
Within the first few minutes of the film, we get the impression that it will take us through uncut footage of a few friends making a movie for a school project. For the project, friends Matt Johnson and Owen Williams are doing a film where they take revenge on a gang of high school students they refer to as “The Dirties”. Everything seems completely normal about the project. The first instance of bullying comes very subtly in the film, in the form of Johnson getting tripped in the hallway and harassed by a fellow student. The subtle action of the bullying, combined with the style of cinematic used by the director, leaves the viewer with chills – as if they’re actually there.
A brilliant aspect of the film comes towards the beginning, when Johnson and Williams are interviewing both teachers and fellow students about bullying, and what students should do if it happens to them. The writers do an incredibly good job of making the film seem realistic, simply because the responses we hear from both individuals being interviewed are no different than the responses we’ve heard in real life. The film also has a way of drawing clever parallels. Some of the first instances of dialogue in the film are Johnson talking to a kid who is also making a movie. The kid tells Johnson that his movie is about a few monsters. Essentially, The Dirties is no different.
The more Johnson gets bullied and harassed throughout the film, he drops subtle hints of shooting up the school. However, he states it in a very sarcastic manner, that makes it so the viewers will sometimes question if he’s serious or not. Williams tends to catch on to Johnson’s mannerisms toward the later part of the film, and calls him out on it. However, Johnson continues to claim that “it’s for the movie.” Viewers eventually begin to realize that Johnson is using cinematography as an outlet for his troubled mind. He acquires the school’s blueprints and gains access to the building before they’re open, because he claims it’s for the project. However, we learn that “The Dirties” within the film go much deeper than the project leads us to believe.
The film has an excellent way of hooking in the viewers with the characters and storyline. The main reason they’re so effective in their efforts is because the subject is relatable for a majority of students. The characters in the film are so likable; you would never guess they would be killers. This is exactly what the film intends to do, which is why our eyes stay glued to the screen for the film’s 83 minutes of operation. Whether you’ve been bullied, witnessed bullying or were a bully yourself, The Dirties is sure to leave you with Goosebumps.
Joe Ballard’s Thoughts (Spoiler Warning):
As my colleague Eric discussed above, the main character of The Dirties, Matt Johnson, “is using cinematography as an outlet for his troubled mind.” Expanding on this, I want to dig a little deeper into the psychological aspects of the film, along with a few other topics.
First, and perhaps most importantly, The Dirties is a film that leaves you thinking, questioning, and discussing its climax. Is this really a film about a constantly bullied teen who was pushed over the edge, or a young man who always had a lust for violence and was looking for an excuse to use it? After watching the movie multiple times I’m still not sure, but perhaps that’s the director’s whole point. He wants us to discuss both possibilities, as they are both ever-growing problems in the increasingly unsafe world of education.
Another question I’d like to pose is: who is most at fault for the shooting occurring? Is it the actual gang that is The Dirties? Is it Matt’s mother’s fault, for not paying nearly enough attention to her son’s life and failing to see the signs that were clear for so long? Or did she see them and consciously choose to ignore them? Or – and this is perhaps the most controversial question of all – is Matt’s best friend Owen at fault? He saw Matt’s actions and thoughts becoming increasingly disturbed; he was there every time Matt would say “we’re gonna bring guns to school and kill you”; he knew Matt had gone over the edge. Although the two finally had it out and Owen let all his feelings and emotions go, could/should he have done more by going to the authorities, or even Matt’s mother? I honestly do not know; this is merely something I’ve been thinking about. But the film shows – just like in every tragic school shooting in real life – that the shooter is never the only one at fault. However subtle, the psychological signs are always there, and I believe being educated about the psychology of young folks is every bit as important as bullying in schools and the gun law debates.
Finally, I have to close this by giving props to Matt Johnson (the real-life actor/director) for what I see as giving the middle finger to the American media. Nearly every time we hear about a new shooting or a bombing in this country, the criminal is vaguely described as “quiet” or “often kept to himself” or “intelligent but socially awkward”. You know how it goes. The descriptions are so generic that about 80% of them are usually describing me, and many other perfectly stable people as well.
It is a disgusting stereotype that has gotten out of control, which is why I take my hat off to The Dirties. The first time I watched it, I was thinking, “oh great, another film where the quiet one is mentally unbalanced.” But instead, it was the much more outgoing Matt who fell victim to his own troubled mind while the quiet yet likable Owen’s personality grew as the film went on. Take notes, American media: the quiet one is not always the dangerous one. Humans are far too mentally complicated to be placed in such obvious stereotypes.
I’ve already discussed more about The Dirties than I intended while writing this piece, but I’ve barely scratched the surface about the number of important issues this movie covers. Regardless of how much we as a people hate discussing and debating topics such as shootings, psychologically unstable humans and the physical/mental bullying of young people, we need to get over it and makes a lot of changes in order to make a difference. We have to. And you have to see this movie at least once – not just because it’s good, but because it’s essential.