Color, 2010, 74m.
Directed by Jeffrey Chaffin and Scott Feinblatt
Starring Ava Santana, Scott Feinblatt, Jeffrey Chaffin, Nadiah Altassan, Tiffany Shepis, Lloyd Kaufman
Dervish (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

A meta-meta horror film presented as court evidence inside a documentary by a fictitious filmmaker, Outtake Reel operates on so many levels you'll quickly forget it's being marketed as a shot-on-video slasher flick. All of the footage is tagged as segments of video prepared as exhibits in a court trial against filmmaker Tom Grayson (co-director Feinblatt), a horror director looking for the main starlet in his latest opus-- which is being shot in a sandpaper factory since they can't afford a studio. The choice lands on Ashley (Santana), an aspiring actress who's instantly set upon during non-shooting hours by Danny Wilson (co-director Chaffin), a smart-talking, persistent, and somewhat stupid wannabe documentarian who forces himself onto the production to shoot behind the scenes for a DVD extra. Voicemails and surviving footage cobbled together document the production's rapid spiral into betrayal, torture, and murder.

God knows video vérité horror films have become a dime a dozen exploring everything from the supernatural (Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch) to serial killers (Cyrus). However, the only one you can even remotely compare Outtake Reel to might be The Last Broadcast as the exact nature of the film you're seeing is always in doubt given the unreliability of the person wielding the camera. It also helps that the acting here is way above average, with Santana handling her tricky role with aplomb as she has to go through several major shifts in temperament over the brief running time. The film's marketing makes much ado about guest appearances by scream queen Tiffany Shepis and Troma head Lloyd Kaufman, but bear in mind their screen time is very limited. (However, Kaufman does get to send the film out with the final interrogation scene.)

The DVD of Outtake Reel features an anamorphic transfer that's about as good as you could expect for something apparently shot on DVD (also in HD, though the quality of the various "sources" used vary from crystal clear to deliberately degraded). The stereo audio is actually quite good and features some effective channel separation, with Danny (who's behind the camera for most of the first half) mixed in a way that's constantly disorienting-- on purpose. Extras include a fascinating teaser trailer (which, Hitchcock-style, pushes the concept rather than using footage from the film itself), a regular trailer, a reel of deleted scenes (which are interesting but were dropped for obvious reasons), additional behind the scenes outtakes, a "Time to Make the Toes" FX featurette, and interviews with Kaufman and Shepis on the set.