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The Scenesters -- Film Review

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Far too self-reflexively hip for its own good, "The Scenesters" ineffectively blends elements of satire and noir-style mystery in a tale of a crime-scene cleaner who finds himself on the trail of a media-obsessed serial killer. Although there are clever elements in this effort from writer-director Todd Berger, the low-budget indie will be better appreciated by film fest habitues than general audiences. It recently won a top prize at the Slamdance Film Festival.

After an amusing mock trailer for the sort of numbing mumblecore drama about self-obsessed twentysomethings that film critics, if not actual moviegoers, are forced to sit through regularly, the story proper begins when that imaginary film's director, Wallace Cotton (Berger), is reduced to taking a job as a videographer for the Los Angeles Police Department. There, he comes into contact with Charlie (Blaise Miller), a crime-scene cleaner who demonstrates far more incisive investigative skills than the lackadaisical detectives with whom he works.

When a series of young women are brutally murdered, Charlie's acumen spurs Wallace and his producer colleague (Jeff Grace) to secretly make a documentary film about him. But things get complicated when the killer finds out about it and starts to get in on the action, contributing homemade videos of the killings. Not helping matters is Charlie's romantic history with Jewell (Suzanne May), the ambitious television news reporter covering the story.

Also part of the confusing narrative mix are black-and-white, noir-style interludes spotlighting vintage L.A. landmarks and scenes from the subsequent criminal trial featuring cameos by Sherilyn Fenn as a prosecutor and director John Landis as a judge.

The best moments come from the thrown-off comic asides making fun of L.A.'s celebrity- and movie-obsessed culture, but the satirical humor isn't sharp or funny enough to compensate for the film's self-defeating gimmickry.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 20 (Vacationeer Prods./Midwinter Studios)
Cast: Sherilyn Fenn, Blaise Miller, Suzanne May, Jeff Grace, Kevin M. Brennan, Todd Berger, Monika Jolly, James Jolly
Director-screenwriter: Todd Berger
Producers: Kevin M. Brennan, Jeff Grace, Brett D. Thompson
Executive producers: Eric Sherman, Christopher R. Sabin
Director of photography: Helena Wei
Editor: Kyle Martin
Production design: Eve McCarney
Costume design: Summer Browning
Music: Dan Houlbrook
No rating, 96 minutes