I think that Alex Murphy said it best in the new movie Pain Shack when he mentioned that YouTube hits are the new currency. In this digital age, you’re nothing if you don’t have a web presence, and Pain Shack’s Alex has taken this concept to extreme levels.
Pain Shack, which was written by, directed by, and stars Alex and Marissa Murphy (as Alex and Marissa, conveniently enough) follows the story of a new father who seems about as directionless as anyone could ever be. When we’re introduced to Alex, he’s coming home from what his wife Marissa assumes is his improv class, but we shortly learn that’s not the case, as he’s been kicked out, told that, essentially, he’s no good at improv. From there Alex seems to only lose more of his grip, as he decides that his calling in life is to make YouTube videos and gain as many followers as possible.
What do you talk about on YouTube, though, when you have nothing to talk about? Seemingly growing crazier by the day, Alex soon learns that the couple’s babysitter, Ricky Shore, has his own YouTube channel where he reviews music and movies. Alex quickly decides that he has always wanted to review music for a living, and begins his own channel…but all of his uploads are just poor imitations of Ricky Shore videos, something Ricky himself becomes increasingly aware of before confronting Alex.
More of a comedy horror than a horror comedy, Pain Shack stars predominantly 3 people – Alex, Marissa, and their baby. The duo, along with their friends and family, have been making YouTube shorts and quirky, hilarious comedy sketches for quite some time, posted under their Ricky Shore Sings The Blues YouTube channel, so the concept behind the entire movie is very meta. Honestly, I felt like I might be missing some of the jokes because I haven’t watched their videos previously (their channel has uploads going back over the last 7 years), but if anything this offbeat flick made me want to subscribe to their channel so I don’t miss another video they post.
The story and script are both great, and – as a couple who have been performing together in videos for close to a decade – they have a great chemistry on screen. All those hours in front of the camera definitely paid off, but also their work behind the camera is also phenomenal for a pair of young filmmakers. The editing is credited to both Alex and Marissa, and if that’s true, you can’t tell who is working on any specific part, as the film works perfectly throughout. The entire thing has a slick feel, with cool shots and trippy angles, especially during scenes where Alex is working out his YouTube personality or speaking to his mustachioed alter-ego.
Overall, Pain Shack is an excellent, off-the-wall film and would be welcome edition to the DVD library of any fan of independent film. A perfect blend of comedy and horror with just enough elements of both to keep any fan satiated. Alex and Marissa can definitely jump from a life of YouTube to a career in feature film – even if page hits are the new currency.