Movie Review: Tell People What Catfish Is!

Oh, how a trailer can sway your expectations. I know they are the most popular device that the studios can use to bring in the crowds, just throw Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger up on the screen before your latest installment of action on the big screen and watch as the dollars roll in. The same idea is behind the trailer for Catfish in the days of the shaky cam documentary you can almost guarantee that if it has release date near October and proclaims a shocking twist ending that you have a horror movie on your hands.  These are the preconceptions I had when going into Catfish and at every moment during the film I was waiting for a man in a mask made of Catfish to cut someone’s head off. This couldn’t be further from the truth that is Catfish. While a horror film it’s not, it does show what you can do with all the personal information that is out on the internet today.

While the clever horror tag line of the film is “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is” I’m going to have to do the complete opposite, because with a little digging I think you can set yourself up for a great viewing experience.  Catfish follows Nev Schulman, a photographer that has found himself in a winding web of deceit as he finds out that the family he has been talking to online are not who they appear to be. I say that now in my synopsis and think again how this sounds so much like a horror movie plot and it only is in the eyes of your internet privacy. As it turns out, Nev has been communicating with a completely fictitious family on the internet through Facebook. It’s only after a late night of this revelation that he and his film making friends set out on a journey to confront this group of liars only to find out that the lies run deeper than they could ever imagine.

While I have left the “big twist” out of my summary for those who refuse to know, I have to say there never was one. Rather than a jaw dropping twist, a bloody massacre played out in night vision, or a Crying Game penis reveal we just have a documentary about a family and people that have grown tired of their lives and decided to live another on the internet. This is what makes me love the documentary, but again it’s marketing makes me wonder like Nev if the the film is “real”. If it is the front line documentation of the lives of people consumed by their lies and living them out online then it’s a great success. But, the tag line still haunts me as Universal becomes a participant in the lie that the film degrades. I can understand why they did what they did if you market the film for what it is, and that’s just a documentary about the people that pretend to be what their not on the internet, then you have a film that plays a couple of weeks at the local art house theater. On the other hand if you make it look like the next Paranormal Activity and “Demand It” then you can really make some money.

I’m still not sure how I feel about this movie and like Nev I’m disappointed when the reality sets in. I can understand what Universal is trying to do with the movie, but that is what makes it hard for me to recommend. I enjoyed the film and loved it’s subject matter, but I can’t say that you should go seek this movie out, because I know that most of you will not get what you looking for from Catfish. That being said I’m going to have to give Catfish a double rating, because the film attacks exactly what it is.

I give Catfish 3” Misleading Bloody Catfish” out of 5

I give Catfish‘s marketing the “Epic Fail.”

By Ryan Davis

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About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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