by Patrick Bromley
Ivo van Aart's new black comedy The Columnist, playing as part of Fantasia Fest, is like an updated version of the 1973 Vincent Price movie Theater of Blood. In that film, Price plays a hammy actor who takes revenge on his critics with a series of elaborate murders, each committed in the style of a different Shakespearean play. It's an incredibly entertaining takedown not just of the pomposity of those who make a living criticizing, but also of the fragility of the actor's ego. The Columnist has other targets in its sights -- namely internet trolls who spend their days attacking women on social media.
Remember that scene at the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back where the two title characters go around finding all of the people who insulted them on the internet and punch them in the balls? The Columnist is pretty much that, only played a bit more straight and a lot more violent. It seems like there is such a good idea for a movie here, such a necessary howl of rage towards the current state of online discourse, that surely seeing someone finally snap and hold the trolls accountable -- albeit at the end of a knife -- would have to be satisfying, no? The answer is "sort of." This is a movie that's very well directed and very well acted (particularly by Herbers in the lead) and so of the moment that I have to give it a ton of credit even if it didn't come together all the way for me. On paper, it can't miss. In practice, it's a different story.