Film Review: Filmmakers piece together composite docudrama with Exquisite Corpse Project


When you choose a movie, there are a variety of factors that lead to a final decision. Is it a lead actor? If so, how do you narrow it down?

Why choose Tremors instead of Mystic River? In this case, genres guide the decision, preparing us for a movie about sand worms instead of New Jersey intrigue, even if either way we’re going to end up with some sweet Kevin Bacon action.

But what if genres were meaningless? What if, as a moviegoer, you could decide to watch them all at once?

Enter The Exquisite Corpse Project, a self-described “comedy/drama/documentary/thriller/action movie/buddy picture/heist flick.” Unlikely as it sounds, what’s amazing is that, due to the film’s strange form, all of its genres coalesce into the most original movie you’re likely to see for a while.

Framed as a documentary, it follows the sketch comedy group Olde English, which formed at Bard College in the mid-2000s before relocating to Brooklyn.

After giving a little background, it jumps to director Ben Popik, who is about to move to Central America. He invites the rest of the group over, and explains the convoluted rules he has contrived: Similar to exquisite corpse, a party game where three people draw the legs, body, and head of a person, without seeing any other part, the men assembled have to write 15 pages of a script, having only seen the previous five, all of which will be strung into a movie.

These documentary bits, which are interspersed throughout the results of the project, provide insightful, and at times heartbreaking, glimpses into the film process. The whole thing is self-aware enough to alert the audience when the five-page mark has arrived, so that, as the movie progresses, we see how it was constructed.

To describe the plot would be impossible, given that it is designed, intentionally, to be nonsensical. What begins as a voice-over-heavy love story turns deranged, then comedic and ultimately sad over the course of its five segments.

Each writer’s style - or lack thereof - shows through, with each segment being distinct not only in plot but also tone, themes and outrageousness. Characters that begin as minor roles become crucial to the plot while others are discarded.

By necessity, it makes for something of an inconsistent movie. But that’s the point. It showcases the tensions that come with creating a work of art as a group by amplifying them. Five people can take a premise in five very different directions and it does happen.

Also of note is how the movie is being distributed. After showcasing it around the country at film festivals and audience-funded screenings, it is currently being sold for $5 on, a distributor that sends 70 percent of the profits back to the creators.