‘The Beta Test’ Review: A Dark Comedy That Further Raises Jim Cummings’ Stock

Someone in Hollywood give Jim Cummings control of a mainstream movie already!

“The Beta Test” follows an up-and-coming Hollywood agent (Jim Cummings) who receives an invitation to an “Eyes Wide Shut”-type meetup, only for him to become paranoid about the fallout. Cummings also directs and co-writes with PJ McCabe.

I was a big fan of Jim Cummings’ 2020 film “The Wolf of Snow Hallow,” I think when done right there is not much better than a horror-comedy. While “The Beta Test” is more of a thriller with dark comedic elements than a straight horror-comedy, Cummings’ abilities as a deadpan actor and witty writer again provide a fun indie trip.

The best way to describe this film is “Eyes Wide Shut” meets “American Psycho,” with a touch of “Tropic Thunder’s” satire tossed in. Cummings and co-director PJ McCabe take swings at the dark habits of the Hollywood system and the elites that operate within it, but do so with a dark tongue-in-cheek attitude. They aren’t saying much that we all don’t already know and agree with (mainly the internet has done a lot more recent harm than good and movie executives are pretty terrible people), but you get some laughs and insight along the way.

Jason Bateman has been the go-to guy for deadpan comedy for a while now (and for good reason, he’s the master) but I think Jim Cummings is one mainstream appearance away from challenging him for that title. He has several line deliveries here, including one meltdown monologue toward the film’s climax, that had me chuckling hard. Cummings had a minor role in this year’s “Halloween Kills” (a surprisingly fun slasher film in its own right!), but has yet to have an opportunity to show audiences his true abilities, and I hope that comes soon.

Clocking in at only 93 minutes, the film moves along at a pretty snappy pace and keeps us guessing as to what Cummings will come across next. When we finally get some resolution, it does feel a bit sudden and tad underwhelming, but not to the extent that it cheapens the film as a whole.

“The Beta Test” is a testament to independent filmmaking, as it was shot by Cummings, McCabe, and their friends on a budget of under $1 million and completed at their homes amid the COVID pandemic. It offers dark and deadpan laughs and amusing attacks on the Hollywood system, and further establishes Jim Cummings as a force to be reckoned with as a writer/director/star.

Critics Rating: 7/10

IFC Films

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