These days it’s rare to come across a film without having any prior knowledge of it. With posters, trailers, stills and various degrees of social media coverage, you can find out so much about a film before you even see it in the cinema. Or at home. The Beta Test was shrouded in mystery after it was selected at Berlinale and secured distribution which is what has given this film its edge. On the surface, it seems like similar stories about the wealthy and obnoxious pawns of Hollywood who swan around acting like they own the town until one small thing makes them stumble but it’s the execution of this strange tale that makes it stand out from all those other stories and makes you wonder, what’s really going on.
When soon to be married Hollywood agent Jordan receives a mysterious purple letter inviting him to an anonymous sexual encounter, he soon becomes embroiled in a strange a sinister plot involving lies, infidelity, data and the lies of the wealthy elite.
Shifting on its feet like a combination of The Player and Falling Down, The Beta Test is a look at what certain people would do, for a little distraction and curiosity plus the price they pay for this privilege, some of them don’t even realise the price until it’s just too late. Although this is Jordan’s story, the glimpses we get into other people who have fallen for those purple envelopes is actually very exciting. We don’t know how they will react but we know, it won’t be good.
As a thriller, the anxiety and uncertainty ramps up minute by minute, mostly due to how Jordan reacts to absolutely everything and everyone around him. He wants to be able to stride into a room bullshit anyone there but he can’t quite pull it off due to his own lack of confidence and shame that weighs him down. When he finally lets everything out in one hell of a monologue of truth, there is only relief in his self once he sees how Caroline responds, those scissors grasped tightly in her hand.
Jim Cummings is on top anxiety and anger ridden as he was in his previous film Thunder Road. His style seeps through in the script and in the direction of the film, of which he shares both credits with PJ McCabe who he also shares the screen with too. They make a great team and is this is just s first collaboration, it’s exciting to see what they create next.
There is an urge not to give away too much of what lies beneath the basement with this film. Switching, in scenes, between standard Hollywood outsider story to thriller with horrific moments, this is all about whether we let curiosity get the better of us. Even if curiosity killed the cat, it was worth it to delve deeper into this bizarrely told generic on the surface story.
The Beta Test screened at Edinburgh International Film Festival on 20 and 21 August and is in cinemas October 2021 from Blue Finch Film Releasing