By Bradley Lane
In 2018, college sophomore Cooper Raiff found himself on campus for spring break with no plans so, he gathered as many friends as he could find and stole camera equipment from his school to make a short film. It turned out rough but after being posted to YouTube, the short got the attention of indie actor and director, Mark Duplass. Raiff received guidance and industry clout from Duplass and ultimately Raiff was able to develop that short into a feature-length project. Cut to 2020 and on just a measly budget of $15,000 Raiff and his film S***house won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest, and has maintained a constant stream of praise leading to its eventual release on video-on-demand services this October.
S***house is a semi-autobiographical story about Alex, an awkward and lonely college freshman played by Raiff, as he struggles to adjust to his abrasive new environment. Frustrated with his lack of any friends to speak of, one night he asks to tag along with his stoner roommate to a party at the titular party house where he meets Maggie, played by Maggie Hill. Together they form a tenuous relationship that is, at times awkward, sweet, caring, contentious, hurtful and funny, but always supremely human and relatable.
To get the obvious out the way, directing, writing, co-editing and starring in your film at just 22 at the time of its production is not just rare, it’s unheard of. This asserts Cooper Raiff as one of the youngest and most talented names to watch in the independent filmmaking scene today. Of course, this is only because the film he made was so darn good to begin with.
The story of struggling to find a place to fit in during college is, admittedly, embarrassingly relatable for me as someone who just graduated college this year. However, the ideas that Raiff is getting at despite the story’s collegiate setting apply widely to adults young and old. The main idea of two people from widely different backgrounds coming together to meet each other at their own terms is a tough thing to communicate, but S***house does it with comedy and grace. It never sacrifices depth for a cheap laugh but rather consistently retains a tone that is most comfortably defined somewhere between dorky levity and tender vulnerability.
Make no mistake, despite what its expletive-filled title might suggest, S***house is anything but a raunchy college comedy, rather it is deeply touching and cleverly cutting piece of character drama that everyone can take something away from. S***house is available to rent on all video-on-demand services. – 4/5 stars