I’m going to be completely honest, my first film at SFIFF was underwhelming. It’s a little film (with an even smaller budget) called The Selling. The festival catalog calls it witty and original, and claims it deftly handles a blend of humor and horror. To be honest though, I found none of these qualities in Selling.
Gabriel Diani plays both actor and screenwriter for the film. His character’s name is Richard Scary, “like the children’s author,” he’s fond of reminding everyone he introduces himself to. This statement is met mostly with confusion, and occasionally with enthusiastic recognition. I suppose this will likely be similar to the film’s reception. Scary is a real estate agent with strong moral fiber who decides to buy a large, empty house and flip it with this business partner in order to make some money to pay the bills of his cancer-ridden mother. The agent that Scary bought the house from was forthcoming with the information that an alleged serial killer used to live there. She did not, however, inform him of the crowds of ghosts haunting the place, making a sale almost impossible.
Emily Lou, a first time director, clearly takes a few queues from the greats that do manage to mix the comedy and horror genres with some success, mostly Sam Raimi. But where filmmakers like Raimi succeeded in providing genuine scares right next to genuine humor, Lou could not. Blame can partly be placed with Diani’s sophomoric script. Which sounds even more wooden coming out of the mouths of a mostly non-professional cast with what seems to be limited experience acting in any sense (Barry Bostwick of Rocky Horror Picture Show makes an appearance as an easily frightened exorcist).
The gags are a bit trite as well–the walls bleed when they’re not supposed to, and they won’t when they are! No one will deny the film meant to lend itself more to comedy than horror which is a shame. The two shining moments I counted during the graciously short run-time came when the film took itself the most seriously and actually came through with some beautiful (and scary) digital effects. Everything considered, you definitely won’t be missing out on anything if you skip this movie.