A treat for fans of wacky horror comedies, “The Murder Podcast” is a whole lot of fun — even if it lacks sophistication and representation.
Over the past decade or so, podcasts have undergone an incredible transformation from a niche form of amateur internet broadcasting to a full-on industry in their own right, and no genre has propelled that growth quite like true crime.
Podcasts like Serial showed the world what this audio medium was capable of. And in its wake, we’ve seen an endless stream of similar series hoping to turn over that crucial piece of evidence that could blow their case — and their listener numbers — wide open. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the two hapless stoners at the center of writer-director William Bagley’s The Murder Podcast would see homicide as their ticket to the big time.
Chad Thadwick (Andrew McDermott) is stuck in a rut, whether he knows it or not. Living in the basement of his family home with his sister Martha (Logan Mariner) and her douchey boyfriend Stephen (Brian Emond), he spends his days smoking weed and making a podcast reviewing sodium-bomb instant ramen with his best friend Eddie (Cooper Bucha).
Desperate for a sponsor that would allow them to go pro, Chad and Eddie can’t seem to get enough listeners to make it to that next level. So, when a gruesome murder happens in their sleepy town, absurdly labeled as an accident by head cop Officer Stacheburn (Levi Burdick), the two best buds see an opportunity to pivot into investigative journalism and make their dreams come true.
But the deeper they get, the stranger — and more dangerous — the story becomes.
The trailer does a good job of not spoiling where it goes, so I won’t either.
A movie about unambitious, developmentally-arrested man-children is nothing new, and The Murder Podcast doesn’t really subvert that archetype in any way. But McDermott and Emond have such winning chemistry that you can’t help but like them even at their most bumbling.
It’s clearly a low-budget indie, but Bagley, in his feature debut, directs with a higher degree of polish and panache than the vast majority of films at its level.
There’s a definite debt to the work of Edgar Wright, particularly SHAUN OF THE DEAD’s slacker duo forced to prove themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and Bagley even throws in a bit of Wright’s signature rapid-fire editing just to make the influence more pronounced.
His sense of humor isn’t quite as sophisticated, typically leaning towards the kind of goofy, giggly stoner humor of movies like Super Troopers. That said, I’m always a fan of anything that applies a high degree of skill to something incredibly silly, and I laughed quite a bit; one particularly well-executed gross-out callback in Stacheburn’s office made me guffaw especially loud.
All the actors are game and do a great job with the film’s slightly heightened reality, particularly McDermott and Bucha’s believable bromance and Burdick’s delightfully no-nonsense Stacheburn.
Though not given much agency of her own, Mariner lends a high degree of warmth to Martha in her limited screen time, and Emond nails his take on the smarmy boyfriend type.
Everyone involved seems to understand exactly what kind of movie they’re making, and they execute (no pun intended) Bagley’s wacky vision with aplomb.
If I have one gripe with The Murder Podcast, it’s with its decidedly male point of view; in other words, this movie definitely does not pass the Bechdel test.
There are only a couple of female characters. And the only one who is given much to say is Martha, and she is mostly just there to give Chad a loving reality check.
There’s nothing wrong with telling a story from a mostly male perspective, but it’s somewhat surprising to see one in 2022 that doesn’t have at least a little more diverse representation. Maybe it’s unfair of me to hold the film to those standards, but in an era where diverse points of view feel more vital than ever, it can’t help but make it feel less like a product of the 2020s than of the mid-2000s/early-2010s Judd Apatow slacker bro comedy era.
But even so, it’s hard to be too upset with a movie as winningly, knowingly silly as this one.
So, if you’re in the mood for something goofy (and maybe have a bit of Chad and Eddie’s preferred substance on board), The Murder Podcast is a hugely enjoyable experience with plenty of charm.