Fantastic Fest 2021 Review/News: THE BETA TEST

Rating: B

Jim Cummings is back as co-director and star in this pitch – black film biz satire. Cummings revels in the full spectrum of bad behavior, leaving you laughing and gasping in equal measure. Cummings stars as a married Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter. After deciding to participate, he becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, murder and infidelity in this scintillating satire. The Beta Test had its Texas Premiere during Fantastic Fest this past September.

The film is written and directed by Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow) and PJ McCabe. While the beginning of the story is very intriguing, it unfortunately does not have an ending to match.

Jordan (Cummings) is a very important (in his mind) Hollywood agent and appears to be happily on his way to wed his love, Caroline (Virginia Newcomb). Jordan is very good at having two personalities – the manipulative one for his career – and the other one as the loving charmer who will do anything for Caroline. That is until, he receives an engraved invitation that grabs his interest and ultimately, he can’t resist the opportunity to have one last fling with “no-strings-attached.” Although he and the partner he is set up with were masked and anonymous, Jordan is happy and satisfied with his choice – until the paranoia sets in and he goes to all lengths to solve the riddle of who is behind the arrangement with this unidentified woman and what is the real cost behind it.

Jordan is just one horrible character in the first place, but as he conducts his research, the worse he gets. It is amusing at times, but he really is not someone to have around – especially in the workplace when he gets verbally abusive, then dives deeper to being a creep with people in stores, and then to those he loves. He continues with this act of entitlement and abuse of authority. Most any adjective can be used to describe the nasty person he can really be, so much so that Caroline doesn’t seem to recognize him either.

It is unfortunate the ending will likely leave some viewers a bit confused as it did me, but there is no doubt that Cummings and other actors in the film certainly turn in a good performance that will keep you watching until then. His performance does impress and I hope to view the past and future work. 

Also starring: PJ McCabe, Kevin Changaris, Olivia Grace Applegate, and Jessie Barr, among others

93 min – The film has been released for viewing On Demand.

Source: Fantastic Fest, IFC Films

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