The Wonderful Chaos of The Exquisite Corpse Project

The Exquisite Corpse Project
The Exquisite Corpse Project / The Exquisite Corpse Project

“When we were together, amazing things happened. Things involving ghosts, and talking snakes, and past that my memory gets a little hazy.”

Imagine that you were given five random pages from the middle of a film screenplay to read. Let’s use The Wizard of Oz, for example. You read the five pages and you read about someone named Dorothy walking along some yellow path and she has a talking scarecrow with her for some reason and some person or thing named Toto. And that’s really all you know, because you haven’t read anything else besides those five pages, so you don’t know who she is or where she came from or where she’s going.

Then, imagine you were tasked with writing the next 15 pages of that screenplay. How would you know what to write—what to have the characters say or how to have them relate to one another? That’s the exact dilemma that the writers of The Exquisite Corpse Project faced in penning this highly-entertaining film.

The backstory goes like this: Back in 2010, five members of a New York City comedy troupe named Olde English were drawn together by one of its members and tasked with writing an entire film in this oddly collaborative way.

The idea was based on the group game called the Exquisite Corpse game, wherein three different people draw a different part of a human being without having any idea what the other two have drawn. As you might imagine, the completed drawing is bound to end up looking rather odd and disjointed, but is also very likely to be interesting and pretty funny to look at.

The movie made with this same philosophy is no different. It is certainly odd, definitely interesting and very funny.

The thing that really makes the film work so well, though, is the fact that documentary footage of the writing process is cut brilliantly into the film. There’s footage of the project idea being pitched to the group. There’s footage of each of the writers reading and reacting to the preceding five pages they’re allowed to read before they write their portion. And there’s a ton of takes of them criticizing one another’s writing style. After all, the writers are all comedians themselves, so they have plenty of fun ripping each other’s work.

The writers are forced to make wild guesses on who exactly the characters are, which leads to some entertaining results. Plus, one of the writers is so bitter with the project that he intentionally makes his section as bad as possible. The result is a film that starts out as a cool, Wes Anderson-ish story of a young married couple, then morphs into a bright-eyed tale of creepy optimism, then into one of those Fatal Attraction-style insane female tales, then into sort of a sci-fi ghost story, and then, well, it all sort of becomes indescribable after a while.

Each of the writers’ approach to the film would have made a really entertaining film on its own. But together they make an even more oddly-satisfying product that I highly recommend.

The film is the first piece of original content distributed by Splitsider Presents, and is available through their site for only $5. For that price you can stream it straight off the site and/or download multiple copies of the film to your computer. Here's a preview: