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Nigerian Frequency, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Better than many amateur films, but that's what it is."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: There are some festival experiences, especially at genre festivals, where it's important to consider what one sees on something of a sliding scale. Take things like "The Nigerian Frequency", for instance: It's not very good when compared to some of the actual professional works playing alongside it, but it at least has more than a few moments that work, even if the people involved could use a lot more experience under their belts.

It posits the existence of "Friendle™", an online service that supplies conversation and advice from a Max Headroom-style avatar. While it certainly seems buggy and unfinished in its current state, it's apparently popular enough to be used by everyone from unhappy shut-ins to the President of the United States - and causing enough of an issue that a pair of investigators would like a few words with Pinocchio Lingo, the system's hypochondriac creator.

Writer/director Matt Scott and his troupe choose some relatively low-hanging fruit as the objects of their satire, meaning there will be lots of gags about the constant stream of personalized advertising to which internet users are subjected. Digs at how the like of Google and Apple will release technically-still-in-beta software wide are perhaps a little more subtle, while the plot (such as it is) alternate between the idea that supposedly democratic platforms with some very confidential information may well be at the mercy of those willing to pay for a higher level of access and more traditional wild conspiracy theories. These may be easy targets, but that doesn't mean there's no satisfaction in hitting them; a surprising number are played just broadly enough to be quite funny.

The trouble is, there's really not a lot to The Nigerian Frequency beyond those simple bits of satire; even clocking in at roughly an hour, it quickly gets repetitive. The use of the infamous "Nigerian Prince" scam emails referenced in the title doesn't really fit, either, eventually feeling like an attempt to shoehorn some sort of menace into a "threat" whose real-world analogs are not actually malicious. Certain familiar bits of imagery show up more out of seeming obligation than because Scott has an actual use for them and unusual bits of framing and structure feel like a director trying to run before he can walk.

And after a while, the lack of resources available to a movie being made in Chelmsford, MA with no money catches up to the production. The glitchy, low-res graphics used for the Friendle™ screens wears thin by the time they have to pass for a believable party of a plot rather than a piece of parody, as do the limited locations and cast. And while many of the amateur performers do fine, others are reminders that, among other things, doing accents should probably be left to the professionals, or at least those who have had a great deal of practice.

That sort of learning experience is half the reason movies like this exist, and the folks who made "The Nigerian Frequency" should not be disparaged for their growing pains. It's better than many homemade movies, and some of the folks involved may have a future doing this; they are just perhaps not well-served being placed in a program alongside flicks made by people with training and money.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26298&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/12/14 00:40:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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