Samuel Marko’s Every Single Someone opens with a potential explanation of its title. As impressionistic handheld footage shows Denver sophomores Lee (Luke Krogmeier) and Arlis (Megan Elisabeth Kelly) enjoying a date out on the town together and sharing their first kiss, we are witnessing two single folk becoming a couple. Yet by the time, moments later, text has revealed that what we are watching is, or at least originally was, material shot for a documentary on college lifestyles, but has now, “following the Auraria Campus shooting and the filmmakers’ subsequent arrest”, been completed and released to the public, the film has shifted into the domain of ‘found footage’, with death and doom rather than young love inscribed – even prescribed – in its texture. Now that title appears to be suggesting something universal about the events captured by these cameras, as though this is just one of countless different stories of similar sociopathy unfolding up and down America’s campuses, where the nation’s young adults – and future élites – are formed.
Indeed, by the time the narrative proper is underway, Lee and Arlis are already breaking up, as the film’s associate producer/editor Tristan Martin and director Samuel Marko listen in with headphones on their argument from the adjacent room. “As journalists, what’s our prerogative here?” Samuel asks Martin, as the shouting in the room next door becomes ever more heated and hostile. “‘Cos we’re not allowed to intervene.” This is the first – and last – time that we shall see these documentarians discussing the ethics of what they do, and struggling to establish some kind of moral line. From here on in, they will film everything without question, never once thinking of stepping in or turning to the authorities no matter how straightforwardly illegal the actions of their subjects. Similarly when the dumped, indignant Lee proposes to his three roommates Kendrick (Keehnan Anderson), Owen (Sam Delossantos) and Damon (Garrett Martin) that they should hire the local hitman Amos (Luke Towle) to murder Arlis so that Lee can start feeling better about himself again (“It’s not about her, it’s about me,” Lee will insist), all three roommates will immediately voice their ethical objections (“That’s fucking nuts!”, “She’s a human being”, “Think about the consequences of everything”), only to abandon them just as quickly.
Lee is a character utterly beyond the pale – entitled, narcissistic, misogynistic, selfish, lacking all empathy while brim full of superiority, and taking a sadistic pleasure in the brutal deaths of people and animals. Yet in keeping with its title, Every Single Someone does not focus merely on Lee, but on all those caught in his orbit, as the infection of his poisonous masculinity spreads to other men around him, and his roommates and the film crew alike are readily drawn into complicity with his aggressive anomie. Kendrick, Owen and Damon will follow Lee further and further down his rabbit hole of male rage, not just enabling his ‘bros before hoes’ attitude but joining in on his psychopathic spree. Meanwhile Arlis will complain, “You guys need to stop following me, you don’t have my consent” – but her words are directed not at sexpest Lee and his friends, but at the filmmakers, who are also stalking her, sometimes in the presence and sometimes in the absence of her unhinged ex. They will also, in their quest for supposed journalistic fair-handedness and objectivity, follow Amos as he executes his murderous missions, and they will even, so as not to alert his victim to their proximity, courteously turn off their noisy cameras when the moment of truth arrives.
Obviously in real life a professional contract killer like Amos would never allow anybody to film his face let alone his hits (although the four college boys might just be stupid enough to do similar), and Marko and Martin, though genuine filmmakers playing a version of themselves, are not now in prison for their efforts. Rather Every Single Someone is a fiction made merely to look real by its fly-on-the-wall shakicam vérité and the real Denver locations that it uses (and duly labels with captions) to authenticate itself. For this falls into the tradition of Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde’s Man Bites Dog (1992), Julian Richards’ The Last Horror Movie (2003) and Scott Glosserman’s Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) – all mockumentaries that test the boundaries between cold-blooded killers and those who document them. One difference, though, is that Marko’s film is in no way played for laughs. For there is nothing funny about the systemic problems and assumptions that are being unpacked here, as male toxicity is shown to exist not just in the moral vacuum that is Lee, but in a network of other men who let pass or even support his destructive aspirations. Like Linus de Paoli’s A Young Man With High Potential (2018), this is all about the easy slippage of an incel and his coterie into something more dangerous.
This reading extends more slyly to an examination of how, in ascending to and holding onto power, the likes of Trump can be buoyed by entrenched patriarchal structures and a conniving media. The film’s set-up may be inherently absurd, as young men carry out criminal acts in plain sight and before the cameras – but that was the all-too-real absurdity of American life in 2018, when the film is set. In fact it begins in October, the very same month of the same year that preppy college boy Brett Kavanaugh assumed his seat as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of America, despite accusations of his misconduct against women that dated all the way back to his own questionable adolescent years in high school and college. So Every Single Someone is ultimately an allegorical film, about the dysfunctional male bonds, overlooked, accepted or even tacitly encouraged within the organs of America’s hierarchies and institutions, that pollute the nation’s social, cultural and political well, often to damaging, deadly effect.
strap: Samuel Marko’s found-footage faux documentary follows an aberrant male student drawing other men into complicity with his callous misdeeds
© Anton Bitel