America has been experiencing a wave of believers in conspiracies and fear mongering the likes of which has been unseen thanks to the internet. For some, it’s big business, for others it’s a philosophy and a way of life. The former is the case for Karen Black (Alexandria Payne) who works for local news right wing pundit Terri Lee (Lee Eddy) briefly before getting fired for a mishap on-set. Lee’s biggest story revolves around an Austin pizza place that she posits as being the front for a Satanic sexual cult preying on children with no evidence or basis but is causing all sorts of commotion. While clearing out her job, Karen witnesses the survivalist and conspiracy theorist Duncan Plump (Tinus Seaux) clear out a crowd of protestors for Lee while armed with a handgun. Finding her big comeback story, Karen convinces Duncan to come with her to expose the pizza place and the reptillian menace they cover, unaware that Duncan is in fact Karen’s story and of the trail of destruction they are about to unleash…
An absolutely dark comedy and road movie from John Valley and executive produced by The Pale Door and Scare Package‘s Aaron B. Koontz. Inspired by one of the most infamous cases of a conspiracy theory running out of control and a grim satire of the kind of people who become enveloped in them. Of course with him being the titular Duncan and focus of the story, Duncan Plump has to be a larger than life character in it of himself. Tinus Seaux does an excellent job playing the loner conspiracy theorist with more layers than you would expect.
Duncan is brash, prone to threats, and his moral compass is more like a roulette wheel, but he is not an outright monster and he’s a lot smarter than he appears. In fact, he doesn’t even really believe in the Democratic Satanic sex cult pizzaria thing and knows they don’t have a basement like Lee broadcasted… but he does believe in the part about lizard people/reptillians being involved. He also has a rather surprising backstory tied into further real world conspiratorial fanaticism, and a lot of racial skeletons in his closet. Specifically in the forms of Confederate license plates and a massively racist tattoo. But that’s not him anymore, so he says. You can empathize with Duncan a bit, but it’s never glossed over that he’s a heavily armed deranged loner.
Alexandria Payne does a great job in the role of Karen Black. A more neutral figure who seems more interested in the success side of conspiracy journalism and shows an ambition to accomplish her goals no matter the cost. Opposing them is Phillip, played by writer/director John Valley. Duncan’s main rival from the heavily armed militia they’re a part of and after some earlier humiliations in front of the group, Phil wants to put a stop to Duncan by any means necessary.
Being a road movie, that’s only one of the conflicts and most of which are encountered along the way to Austin and the pizza place. Without spoiling, the movie does a good job of connecting things together even as a domino effect colliding in a cataclysmic finale. For the most part the tone and narrative work, although some aspects of the conspiracy and the movie’s thesis on conspiracies, right wing media, and conspiracy theorists didn’t quite mesh at the end, feeling somewhat disjointed. But as the saying goes; it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey… especially one so fraught with violence and social commentary.
Overall, Duncan isn’t the most methodical examination of how conspiracy theories and mass paranoia has ingrained itself to the American public at large. But with its cast of characters, snappy dialogue, and well choreographed scenes of carnage, it’s worth a watch so long as it doesn’t strike too close to home.