The list of filmmakers who could put out a new movie and I’d watch it, no questions asked, sight unseen is pretty short, but at the top of that list sits Jim Cummings, the filmmaker behind Thunder Road and The Wolf of Snow Hollow (one of my best films of 2020). Remember years ago when I said, Hey there’s this filmmaker Taika Waititi, you might want to remember his name and check out his movies? Well, there’s this filmmaker Jim Cummings, you might want to remember his name and check out his movies.
Cummings has an unforgettable authorial voice as a screenwriter, and his style as a director is best described as “unpredictable low key mindf-ck”. It’s not that he’s making deliberately overcomplicated movies (like, say, Tenet), it’s the way he starts out in a genre and subverts expectations until you end up standing in a completely different narrative space. Thunder Road is a cop movie that is the opposite of copaganda but it’s also about toxic masculinity and grief. Snow Hollow is a werewolf movie but it’s also an addiction movie but it’s also a divorce drama but it’s also a comedy. Jim Cummings defies pigeonholes.
Which is why I am STOKED about his new movie, The Beta Test. Writing and directing with PJ McCabe—who also co-stars alongside Cummings, and I am curious to see how sharing creative duties morphs Cummings’ work, and what we get from McCabe in the deal—The Beta Test LOOKS like a skewering of #MeToo-era sexual politics and the film industry, but I would be surprised if it is JUST that. The trailer establishes the premise: a Hollywood jerk gets involved in a mysterious…sex game?...and then There Is Fallout, and I don’t want to know any more than that. Cummings’ movies unfold like surprise nesting dolls, half the fun of watching is just seeing where he goes that you never expected. A 90-second trailer telling me this movie is set in Hollywood is enough. Honestly, a 90-second title card that said New sh-t from Jim Cummings would be enough. Whatever this guy does next, I’m on board.