Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, so weird it couldn’t be made up. This is true of the documentary Catfish by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, directors of the upcoming horror Paranormal Activity 4. The film documents the evolution of a long-distance relationship between Yaniv ‘Nev’ Schulman – brother of Ariel and friend of Henry Joost – as he develops a romantic attachment to the increasingly bizarre model/songwriter Megan.
Everything about the story is bizarre, after seeing a picture Nev had released in the paper he is contacted by Abby, supposed younger sister of Megan. Abby is presented as an 8-year-old artistically gifted child prodigy. Through Abby Nev is introduced to Megan and started to develop an oddball internet relationship through Facebook. Eventually Nev realises that his ‘relationship’ with Megan is merely a horrific pretence but encouraged by the filmmakers he decides to continue filming, visiting Megan’s house in Michigan. What follows is an exercise in the bizarre, a depressive insight into the nihilistic chasm of human nature. When the gravity of Megan’s deception finally becomes apparent it leaves the audience and the filmmakers reeling.
The film has attracted controversy as to whether the events depicted happened as recorded. In an attempt to answer these questions the directors were interviewed about the making of their film (see the trivia section below for a link). I personally believe the Catfish saga was captured as it happened for what it was, a macabre tale of deception. The internet provides a platform for the disturbed to fashion alternate identities and personas to escape the monotony of their lives, Catfish is merely an example of what happens when the trail is followed to the source. If nothing else the film will have you thinking more carefully about accepting that friend request from a stranger.
The story of Catfish plays out like something from the mind of Harmony Korine, indeed part of the film even takes on a Gummo-esque tone. Catfish is one of the most chilling documentaries I have seen, easily maintaining a level of drama and suspense akin to films like Hard Candy and Changeling. Catfish is a horrifying, depressing exposition on the hopelessness surrounding a section of American society cameras rarely expose. Catfish is a unforgettable directorial achievement and an intriguing watch and a film that Mark Zuckerberg – and indeed any Facebook user – would surely find an uncomfortable experience.
- Direction: 4/5
- Entertainment: 5/5
- Second Viewing Value: 5/5
- Overall: 4.5/5
- As of August 2011, the film has been hit with two lawsuits and, according to Catfish distributor Relativity Media, the film has an unrecouped balance of more than $8.5 million and will not likely ever become profitable. Both of these lawsuits have to do with songs used within the movie not being attributed to their creators.
- The creators of Catfish answer questions dealing with the films authenticity