Thursday, May 28, 2020

Shudder: Confessional

For confession to be “good for the soul,” it must come with contrition. Viewers will not get much of that from the entitled Millennials embroiled in the untimely deaths of two classmates. However, they will be forced to cop to the roles they played in the campus scandals, as part of a muckraking performance art installation. The narrators are unreliable, but they still can’t help revealing themselves in Brad T. Gottfred’s Confessional, which premieres today on Shudder.

For the sake of full disclosure, the student behind the Confessional project takes full credit for the film itself, essentially accusing the producers of pirating her work, as part of the conceit. Of course, it would be telling to identify just who that party might be.

Credit is also due to Amelia, a recently deceased film student, who had made of practice of filming her classmates’ confessions over the years, including her own. Clearly, the person controlling the Confessional booth had access to her archive—and used clips of the more sensitive footage to convince her subjects to participate. One by one, they enter the sound-proof chamber, reluctantly answering her questions and prompts.

It turns out Zach, a star swimmer, also died under mysterious circumstances. Zach’s ex, June and his former best-friend Garrett could have illuminating information. So might Raquel the campus drug dealer, Major the misogynistic preppy, and Sai the geek. Plus, Amelia’s former girlfriends, Noelle and Carrie should also have plenty to say.

Screenwriter Jennifer Bosworth rather cleverly unfolds the mystery through each evasive confession, but most of the characters are more like college caricatures. Frankly, it is quite impressive Paris Berelc, Annalisa Cochrane, and Mia Xitlati could make June, Raquel, and Amelia as human and interesting as they did.

However, this film is really about the confessional novelty, which Gottfred executes with sufficient energy and intensity to compensate for the cliched stock campus figures. The design of the Confessional booth definitely helps. It is small enough to be claustrophobically confining, but big enough to give the cast room to work with. As a result, the film never has the static vibe of a talking head picture, like Sally Potter’s cell-phone movie, Rage.

Confessional should not shape anyone’s view of the current state of higher education, but it is fun to see it weave together its revelations. Recommended for fans of gimmicky thrillers, Confessional is now streaming on Shudder.