True crime is all the rage right now, from “My Favorite Murder” to Only Murders in the Building, so it makes complete sense that intrepid podcasters and lifelong best buds Chad (Andrew McDermott) and Eddie (Cooper Bucha) decide to capitalize on a mysterious local slaying to create The Murder Podcast. Up to this point, they’ve been discussing ramen (really) and, when the movie opens, the duo is celebrating their biggest week yet with a whopping 103 plays. But Chad is eager to be a bit more well known. He listens to his own podcast so much the host knows it off by heart, but everybody else is taking their sweet time catching up. Unfortunately, this isn’t any old murder and soon the BFFs are battling an ancient evil that’s threatening to take the entire town down with it.
McDermott and Bucha have a lovely, loose rapport, with some slight hints of homoeroticism, and spending time in their company is a complete joy, even when they’re quite literally nerding out over noodles. But neither of their characters are particularly competent. Writer-director William Bagley, making his feature debut here, cleverly disassembles the idea of someone magically being able to solve crimes or to even stomach the reality of violence throughout The Murder Podcast, including having Chad gag and at one point fully vomit at the sight of some crime scene photos. Too often, we’re expected to suspend our disbelief when otherwise regular people–typically dudes, but I digress–suddenly rise to the occasion and become Batman out of nowhere but Bagley luxuriates in how useless these two stoners are.
The fact neither man wears headphones while they’re capturing audio is just one example of their hilarious ineptitude–even if they were great detectives, this duo wouldn’t have a hope in hell of presenting their findings in the correct manner. When discussing their plans to take the podcasting world by storm, the long-time friends enthuse over how “we could be that boring-ass podcast!” (in reference to other similarly-themed shows) and “we might be able to get sponsors!” solidifying just how modest and yet simultaneously lofty their goals are. The Murder Podcast is a hangout movie through and through, with just a handful of locations and characters with names like Officer Stacheburn, Burn Nightly, and Jake Daniels. That last guy is the killer’s first victim, some loser gamer who still lives at home with his mom and has a pathetic to-do list taped to the fridge that he clearly has no intention of ever completing.
We watch as Jake puts one beer back in the fridge and takes the remaining five out of the six-pack to drink, which is weirdly reminiscent of Riff Raff with the champagne in Rocky Horror, even though it probably wasn’t intentional. There’s some sort of paranormal entity waiting to pounce, barely glimpsed as it lurks in the shadows–an effective way to introduce the killer without giving away too much. Later, just one corner of the living room is covered in caution tape in one of many brilliant sight gags that suggest Bagley intends for his movie to be re-watched over and over again to catch everything. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of jokes that work first time around, with Chad yelling “Are you on meth or something!?” when his sister’s boyfriend is possessed while a low-budget show about witches (which ties very satisfyingly back into the premise of the move itself) culminates in the genuinely brilliant deadpan line: “I guess magic can’t stop…bullets.” Likewise, a mic is brandished like a gun and there are enough moustaches to make the Broken Lizard guys jealous.
The threat at the core of The Murder Podcast is a nice spin on the expected antagonist in stories like these, with both local and familial tie-ins that are well-established and make sense in the context of the movie itself. It’s all very charming and lo-fi, kind of Mega64-esque in a way, like something they would do if the boys were trying to be a bit spookier. Annoyingly, though, the VFX are patchy at times, which lets the villain down, but at least there’s a physical person playing the role. Likewise, a closeup of the makeup is really cool and there’s a gnarly shot of the creature emerging out of the water that involves some great practical FX–plus, CG explosions lead to real splatter, which always softens the blow.
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The score is really fun and super catchy, it’s shot well, and the performances are solid, if a little self-conscious at times. McDermott recalls a young Simon Rex, so he’s perfectly cast as Chad–a man who’s so used to life being easy that he barely even tries anymore and takes offence when being called out for doing exactly that. Watching him and Bucha–who’s his sweet, soft counterpart–tussle with local law enforcement and a snooty newscaster is endlessly entertaining, and all credit to Bagley for resisting giving either of them a come-to-Jesus moment in the end. He clearly loves these characters, and by the end, we do too. The Murder Podcast is, in essence, like all the best podcasts; it’s smart, funny, unique, and crucially doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Catch The Murder Podcast streaming on Amazon Prime or on the official site
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): William Bagley
Writer(s): William Bagley
Stars: Andrew McDermott, Cooper Bucha, Levi Burdick, Logan Emond
Release date: Streaming now
Run Time: 92 minutes