Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood

A pandemic comedy about conspiracy theories.
Toby Blackwood (Doug Mellard) is an extreme right-wing, conspiracy theorist, survivalist hick, and of course has a popular YouTube channel. Instead of following a more typical thriller route with the audience caring for the whereabouts of the title character, it’s actually a comedy about conspiracy theories making fun of guys like Toby. The main characters are Wes (Joe Ahern) a sad, recently divorced guy whose friends are worried about him as he mopes about his house during the pandemic, and Luke (Grant Harvey) his friend who can easily fall down conspiracy rabbit holes.   2022

Directed by: Joe Ahern

Screenplay by: Joe Ahern, Doug Mellard

Starring: Joe Ahern, Grant Harvey,
and Doug Mellard

Wes had mentioned to Luke that he has a famous friend. Friend is a bit of a misnomer, they used to hang out occasionally in middle school but haven’t spoken in twenty years, and famous only among conspiracy theorists on the internet. Luke, a very sociable guy who’s clearly going out of his mind during the pandemic, stumbles upon Toby’s followers hatching hair-brained schemes to explain why Toby missed a post. It’s now been five days since anyone has heard from him. Luke convinces Wes that they’re the ones who need to solve Toby’s disappearance, from their computers and phones, in a different city, in their pyjamas (or whatever state of dress Luke is currently in, which is usually barely).

The premise surprisingly works. It clearly echoes back to early days of the pandemic where people are going stir-crazy in their houses, going down YouTube rabbit holes, and their friends are on zoom calls telling them that they’re worried about them. Everybody can relate to some aspect of these characters. The characters actions fit their personalities so perfectly, that it’s relatively easy to overlook the amateur-ish acting and low-budget production. It has a fast run-time and gets into the story right away.

Wes is too depressed to be able to pull Luke out of his poorly thought-out detective schemes. Instead of starting with family or neighbours, they start with Toby’s most recent conspiracy theorist profiled on his channel and go deeper and deeper into crazy people ideas. A lot of these crazy people are played by famous comedians including Doug Benson, Simon Pegg, Lamorne Morris and Luis Guzman.

Luke convinces Wes that they need to think like a conspiracy theorist in order to find a conspiracy theorist, and even though it sounds crazy to their friends – that Bill Gates is hiding out in Area 51 underneath the Denver airport where he created the virus to then create the vaccines which have microchips in them to control people – it sounds right to somebody like Toby.

The Disappearance of Toby Blackwood has a very fitting ending. One joke to satisfy the conspiracy nuts out there and a realistic conclusion for the sane ones