Tag Archives: Jeff Ryan

Way Down in Poconos

Mean Spirited

by Daniel Baldwin

Influencer-themed genre fare seems to be all the rage these days. The latest entry in this quickly-expanding subgenre is writer/director/co-star Jeff Ryan’s Mean Spirited. This satirical slice of would-be spookery sees a pair of childhood friends (and former vlogger business partners) attempting to reconnect over the course of a weekend vacation in the Poconos, but the realm of the supernatural has other plans for the two of them.

There is quite a bit of insightful commentary and scathing satire of YouTuber culture, influencer vapidity, and modern social media posturing on display here. All of this is reinforced by intentional editing choices that mimic many vlog styles, all the while sending them up in the process. We are gifted with a mix of both completed vlog footage, as well as unedited video, which allows for the public façade to be peeled back on these characters when there’s no one for them to put on a show for. It’s in these moments that the film hits its stride.

Unfortunately, all of it is mired by a wobbly execution of the film’s genre elements. Comedy is an insanely subjective genre, more so than even horror, but even taking that into consideration, a little bit of obnoxious YouTuber humor goes a long way. Even in a satire, too much can push the grating needle into the red, and that’s a trap the filmmakers fall into here. Add in the fact that the actual scares come way too late, and the end result is a horror comedy that never manages to find a healthy balance between either genre.

Mean Spirited may not be one of the better entries in the influencer-themed horror comedy subgenre, but if you’re a fan of found footage, mockumentaries, and/or YouTuber culture, you might still find some enjoyment within. You might also perhaps want to consider avoiding weekend getaways to the Poconos with an estranged friend.

Hip to Be Square


by Rachel Willis

Who needs a farcical mockumentary skewering both youth ministers and the types of kids involved in church camp? Directors Arielle Cimino and Jeff Ryan, and writer Christopher O’Connell bring you YouthMin.

Pastor David, aka “Pastor D” (Jeff Ryan), is dedicated to educating the members of his youth church organization, as well as getting them to the annual Bible camp for competition and games. So, he’s floored when the church assigns a new youth minister to his group, Rachel (Tori Hines). As we quickly see, Pastor D needs all the help he can get.

Ryan is the perfect combination of 90’s MTV reality star (he’d fit right in on early seasons of The Real World) and overenthusiastic youth minister trying too hard to connect with his flock. His attempts to educate the kids on the Bible’s tenets are both hilarious and misguided—a bottle of water becoming an amusing metaphor for sex before marriage.

The collection of kids is what you might expect. There’s a stereotypical jock-type who looks up to Pastor D, a girl who dresses very conservatively and who might have a crush on our inept pastor. Then there’s Stephen, who refuses to talk, and Deb, who dresses in dark colors but knows her Bible (especially the racier parts). There’s isn’t anyone in the group who truly stands out, but it doesn’t really matter since the best parts of the film are the ways these kids relate and react to Pastor Dave.

About two-thirds of the way through, there’s an abrupt tonal shift. The film stops making fun of its ‘subjects’ and tries for a heartwarming, root-for-the-underdog romp. It’s jarring and not nearly as entertaining as what precedes it. These aren’t characters we’ve been asked to care about, so expecting us to suddenly pull for them requires an abrupt shift in perception. Ultimately, it’s a disappointing change.

For most of the film, the comedy works. O’Connell’s writing is reminiscent of some of Christopher Guest’s funnier films. But then YouthMin forgets it’s a mockumentary. The comedy gets stale and the laughs become infrequent as the film putters to its predictable resolution.

It’s too bad this film falters so badly in its final scenes because these lackluster components overshadow the funnier material. If the filmmakers had remembered they were making fun of their characters, they would have had a solid film from start to finish.