THE BETA TEST (2021)
Written and Directed by Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe
Grimmfest 2021 Review
With his wedding just weeks away, Jordan’s life is turned upside down when he receives an invite to a no-strings attached, sexual liaison in a hotel room with a stranger. Initially taken aback by the mysterious invite, he RSVPs and meets up for a night of anonymous sex. Having been blindfolded during the encounter, Jordan leaves the hotel room with so many questions which begin to interfere with his normal life. His guilt and curiosity begins to eat into him resulting in his relationships at work and at home with his fiancee Caroline becoming strained as the paranoia intensifies. When he discovers that others who’ve taken part in these mysterious hookups have been found murdered, he decides he must do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of it. Just who is behind the purple invites and who did he have sex with?
Kicking off Grimmfest 2021, THE BETA TEST explores infidelity, lies, lust and privacy as one man’s night of fun is set to derail his life.
What would you do if you received an invite proposing a sexual encounter offering to pair you up with someone who has all the same sexual interests and appetites as yourself? No-one need know and you won’t know the person you’re going to have sex with. Would you do it? Thriller THE BETA TEST raises this question and teases the idea that even though someone may be “happy” with their life, that temptation, greed and lack of satisfaction is always around the corner.
THE BETA TEST likes to keep viewers on their toes and does its best to keep you uncomfortable throughout its running time. Though it descends into a larger-than-life performance with Jordan going to extreme lengths to get to the truth, the opening scene of the film is subtlety done brilliantly and is one of the most shocking openers to a film I’ve seen this year. Though the rest of the movie doesn’t exactly follow suit in this particular vein, instead resorting to a more comedic and satirical portrayal, the idea is enough to make you sit up and question who is behind the purple envelopes and what is their endgame. We’re very firmly in the shoes of Jordan here, as we only know as much as he does about what’s going on so the paranoia felt by his character is one the viewer shares too. However, we have the power of being able to look in from the outside and see that his obsessive search is destroying everything around him. Even his Hollywood agency is struggling to keep its head above water with the changing rules in the actors guild making their line of work obsolete. Being the captain of a sinking ship and attempting to keep hold of his sanity and relationship, it’s like watching a ticking time-bomb go off.
Jim Cummings, who also wrote and directed THE BETA TEST, stars as Jordan. He’s a typical smarmy businessman who likes to talk big and it looks as though he’s got ahead of himself. His moment of weakness becomes his undoing. Whilst he’s a bit of a douche at times, he’s still likeable and you want to know the answers to his questions so that he can salvage whatever he has left as everything seems to crumble around him. Co-writer and director PJ McCabe stars as Jordan’s best friend PJ who tries to give him the outsider’s point of view. In contrast, PJ lives a simple, happy life with his wife. Though he too works for Jordan’s agency, his only moment of stress is usually whenever Jordan is involved. Virginia Newcomb stars as Jordan’s suffering fiancee Caroline who begins to see the man she loves become more distant and agitated. It’s sad to see their relationship break down throughout the film, with Caroline completely unaware that the man she is about to marry has been unfaithful. An oblivious Jordan is too busy obsessing about the purple invites to notice that the problem isn’t so much the invites as his own wants, desires and happiness with what he’s got.
THE BETA TEST is a seductive, daring mystery thriller with satirical, over the top humour that will both exhaust and amuse. An enthralling, captivating slice of cinema that effectively pulls together a range of genres.