Lexi: An American Vanishing: Indie Film Friday
Dir. Victoria Vertuga (2022)
Put together from police tapes and security footage, we discover what is really behind the vanishing of motivational influencer Laughing Lexi.
Mockumentary can be a double-edged sword, because it can be difficult to do believably and even harder to do while making the content scary. The best of them, like Lake Mungo, are productions that involve the same type of story-telling as a regular movie but told from a different perspective. The worst of them try to jam humor in where it’s not appropriate and fail to contain the adequate number of scares to make the story worth watching. Thankfully, Lexi: An American Vanishing, is the former, because while it certainly doesn’t pack quite the emotional punch that Lake Mungo managed, there are some truly worthwhile things that the film accomplishes that I haven’t quite seen on film before. Whether the culprits behind Lexi’s disappearance are supernatural in nature or more realistic the film does not ever truly answer, but when the story is told well enough, and with the kind of creepy and disturbing implications the film indicates, the answers can be whatever you personally want them to be.
Victoria Vertuga, the jack-of-all-trades of this film, wrote, directed, and starred in her own film as the titular Lexi, a “motivational influencer” that is, of course, a thing here in 2022 unfortunately. In a world filled with unboxing videos, beauty bloggers, and YouTube celebrities, Lexi is an interesting take on the entire phenomenon of trying to be famous through internet videos. The film is told like an episode of Dateline, featuring interviews with those close to Lexi interlaced with videos from the vlogger’s own channel and clips from her security cameras. While it’s a relatively unique format, it’s not a film that’s particularly groundbreaking in its format or substance. That being said, the old saying that there’s nothing new under the sun is evident in thousands of film, some of them great for what they are, and Lexi isn’t any different than these films. It doesn’t have to be new to be interesting or worthwhile, and I thought that Lexi was an enjoyable film with plenty of creep-out moments.
There are some laughs, especially from the video clips from other social media members, which is fairly jarring from an otherwise serious affair. It was an interesting choice, and I think that some people would criticize the decision, but it’s quite a realistic depiction of social media and the personalities that manifest once the camera starts rolling. It’s an honestly kinda brilliant take on this phenomenon, and I have seen enough of The Morrigan’s beauty drama Youtube feed to feel those ideas represented strongly in this film. Despite the smiling faces and constant collaboration, these people hate each other more often than not, and when the shit hits the fan in the community they turn on each other like rabid wolves. The depiction in this film of the rivalries present only after Lexi’s disappearance is extremely realistic, and is more than likely exactly what would happen in a world where attention is money. The characters’ tendencies to be over the top representation of their real-life counterparts may not always feel like it belongs in a movie like this, but there are real, honest-to-God people like this in the world, and if you haven’t spent enough time on the internet to encounter them, consider yourself lucky.
There were some really creepy scenes in the film. At one point Lexi finds herself opening a present from a fan to celebrate the purchase of her first home. Inside the box is a mannequin head with no other context, which… is fucking terrifying, right?! Like what the fuck? She also gets a message during an Instagram Live video that asks if she likes it when people watch her sleep. She talks about how she wants to keep the questions nice and light, but it’s clear by her reaction that whatever was said next was quite disturbing, because she swiftly ends the video, maintaining the trademark Lexi happy attitude throughout. Needless to say, these interactions scare her, leading her to installing security equipment and to watch out for any strange movements around her property. As events progress, strange occurrences begin to happen inside her home, and her Lexi Laughs persona eventually begins to take on a decidedly darker tone.
What I loved most about the film is the breakneck speed at which everything moves. There was hardly a dragging moment in the entire film, which is so hard to do when you’re making a smaller budget indie film. Between the douchey interviewees and the unsettling Instagram videos, the film is a biting critique of the entire subculture of vlogging and vloggers, creating a bizarre and compelling story from start to finish. In a world in which the entire internet finds itself continually enthralled with stories like those of Elisa Lam and Gabby Petito, the hyper-realism of the occurrences in Lexi: An American Vanishing feel as real as they’re intended. In fact, I think the only part about this film that doesn’t feel quite real is the fact that someone could be breaking into a house and those three adorable dogs aren’t barking their asses off.
Who this movie is for: Indie film fans; Found footage geeks; Instagram models so they can learn their fucking lesson
Bottom line: Truly unsettling at times and far better than it has any right to be, Lexi: An American Vanishing is an interesting take on modern internet culture wrapped in a true crime/horror mockumentary. The acting is great, though at times on the nose for the character types they are portraying, but that’s a nitpick more than anything else. The fact that you can find this movie for free on Tubi right now makes it an easy recommendation, and I definitely suggest you check it out when you get the chance. For anyone that finds themselves absent-mindedly watching their fifth episode of Dateline in a row, take a break from the true crime and tune into a creepy-as-hell mockumentary with a fantastic heart.