“The Dirties” Review

jason August 15, 2013 2
“The Dirties” Review


Writers: Matthew MillerEvan Morgan


Ugh, I’m not in the mood for another high school indie movie featuring mumbling juveniles spewing out pop culture references and pseudo-philosophies. Of God, and on top of that it’s a found-footage movie. Okay, fine, let’s do this. I don’t care anymore.

All right, two good friends are making a movie and they’re bullied at school. I can probably predict the whole movie right now. The one friend is going to meet a girl and break out of his shell, while the other gets left behind. Then they get in a fight and realize that their friendship will outlast the melodrama of high school and… wait… oh God… what? … I was wrong… I was so wrong! What is this? What’s happening?!

“The Dirties” is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s a found-footage film about two high school pals making a movie about killing high school bullies. The movie they make is silly and most likely cathartic for the two friends. But when they premiere it to their fellow students, it’s a disaster. Matt (Matthew Johnson) is a wacky human film almanac with a never-say-die passion for filmmaking. Almost every sentence he speaks is a pun or reference. Owen is a tad more introverted who genuinely enjoys Matt’s company, but longs for acceptance outside of just their friendship.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 4.47.44 PM

Anyway, after their movie bombs, Matt pitches the idea of “The Dirties 2.” Instead of reenacting the murder of their high school bullies, why not just film themselves actually killing the bullies? Matt pitches this idea as if he were pitching the idea to order pizza. It was such a casually presented idea that Owen, as well as the audience, just laughs it off. Then Matt get the blueprints to the school, starts going to gun ranges, and compiles a list of bullies in their school. Wait, is he actually going through with a school shooting?

The movie tricks you into watching something psychologically brilliant. Matt is so charismatic and accepting of the idea of murder that you may not realize what you’re watching until it’s too late. His powers of persuasion are remarkable, as his demeanor doesn’t waver between buddy comedy and sobering tragedy. It’s not a hard shift, either, as Matt gradually twiddles his way into planning a mass murder. He even questions his mental state as he reads the text book definition of “psychopath.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of James Holmes’ calm yet cogent demeanor when watching Matt.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 4.48.29 PM

But wait, did Matt go crazy or has Matt always been crazy? …




Here’s a solid question to ask yourself when the movie ends: who was filming this? Yeah, it’s found footage, but the only person to address the camera is Matt. Owen even argues with Matt, saying he never stops acting and that he is his only friend. We see a cameraman in the reflection once in a while and someone had to film their original “Dirties” movie, but after a while the camera placements and filming locations get more and more odd. At one point, the camera is outside of Matt’s home, filming Matt speaking with his mother. Who’s that devoted to just filming Matt all the time?

At the end, Matt does go through with the shooting. He places Go-Pro camera throughout the school, rehearses his shootings, and then goes through with the twisted fantasy. A nameless cameraman went through with a school shooting? I wish I was conscious of this idea as I was watching because I would have looked for a cameraman in the Go-Pro footage.

Here’s my theory: The movies started with a cameraman. This nameless entity sticks around for the making of “The Dirties” but eventually stops filming when the project is complete. However, Matt locked himself into this state of always being filmed and the rest of the film we’re watching is Matt’s cerebral movie edited by his subconscious. Pretty trippy, right? We’re watching a movie that only exists in the mind of a psychopath.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 4.47.25 PM

What started out as a fleeting giggle fest turned into one of my favorite movies of the year. It tackles a lot of subjects, including bullying, psychopaths, friendship, obsession, and the current state of media. It’s a brilliant concept and seamlessly crafted. Any movie that has the ability to distract and withhold information for the betterment of the final product is worth the price of admission. I hope this movie is studied in film schools and that the performances are referenced in acting classes for years to come. The surplus of sub-par found footage films are worthwhile investments to the history of cinema so “The Dirties” can exist. Jesus, that’s a tad heavy handed.


– When it started, Matt reminded me of myself in high-school. When it ended, I questioned if I was psychotic.

– I saw this at the KahBang festival.

– There was a hefty amount of laughter for the first 45 minutes. The remaining 40 minutes was dead silence.


  1. Caroline August 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Spoiler alert
    Spoiler alert
    Spoiler alert

    I actually heard Matthew Johnson explain who are the cameramen in the movie (during a Q&A in a film festival). When they started shooting the movie, there were other characters, namely the cameramen (boys and girls) who were filming Matt and Owen. During a very early screening however, the audience felt that these characters kind of “diluted” the drama, so they were removed.

    You might notice once during the definitive cut of the movie, that Matt addresses directly one of those cameramen during a scene, calling him Jared (just before the “pulp fiction” scene, with the Royale with Cheese line). In another scene, when Matt and Owen are watching a movie at home, Matt offers some popcorn to the cameraman. These two instances are what is left of these early characters.

    On another topic completely, but I found that fascinating: did you know that the guy playing Owen is actually a high school TEACHER? Yeah, we’re old.

    • jason August 17, 2013 at 5:31 am - Reply

      Oooooooooooooo…well, if they want a scapegoat for what happened to the cameraman, they have one now.

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