Talhotblond Barbara Schroeder

Talhotblond Barbara Schroeder
In his opening narration, 22-year-old Brian Barrett (aka "Beefcake," his online name) tells us that he is speaking to us from beyond the grave, so that reveal tells us the sad story of how he was "cybersexed to death." Such a description evokes some pretty ghastly mental images, but don't take it literally. He was actually murdered by 47-year-old Tom Montgomery (aka "Marinesniper") for striking up an online relationship with his own on-again, off-again online girlfriend, 18-year-old Jessi Shieler (aka "Tallhotblond").

None of these three ever meet each other in person, but our undead narrator can still be counted on to solemnly deliver a cliché or hyperbole for every situation: "Finally, fate stepped in and exposed Montgomery's charade"; "She took her new friendship with the real Thomas Montgomery to a dark and twisted place"; and, my personal favourite, "Jesse lost her virtual virginity." If director Barbara Schroeder is reading this, I would like to gently suggest that if you're going to go to the trouble of resurrecting a dead man to narrate your documentary, please be sure to resurrect a better writer.

Nothing says "classy documentary" like "posthumous narration" and, indeed, Talhotblond is one hilariously cheesy, sleazy movie. Still, for all of her deficiencies as a filmmaker, Schroeder has found a story of intrinsic, voyeuristic fascination. Bored with his marriage and suburban life, Tom Montgomery strikes up an online friendship and romantic relationship with teenaged Jessi, creating an elaborate persona for himself as a young sniper to impress her. Complications arise when his identity is revealed, but the pseudo-affair continues and Brian, Tom's co-worker, enters the picture. And, hey, is Jessi even all she appears to be?

The howlingly lame, but deadly serious, narration in matched by the rogues' gallery of crackpot interviewees, including Montgomery, and a pompous clinical psychologist who at one point actually says, "The denials of Thomas Montgomery that he committed homicide are completely accurate... in some sense ― metaphoric ― in our fantasies. Marinesniper did it. Marinesniper did it exactly the way a sniper would do it." (Perhaps he got his clinical psychology degree at Devry?)

The overheated synth score suggests a particularly bad episode of America's Most Wanted, and the film has trouble making the abundance of chat room text dynamic, though Schroeder's gratuitous inclusion of a graphic piece of cyber sex (yes, right up to cyber orgasm) proves that she's nothing if not a showman.

The real reason why Talhotblond is such a hoot is because by turning the Talhotblond/Marinesniper/Beefcake fiasco into such an over-the-top soap opera, Schroeder has lost sight of what it's really about: stupid, sick people doing stupid, sick things. (Answers)