Shut Up Little Man! Review
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If you’ve ever lived in an apartment (or even a dorm room), you most likely have some stories about horrible neighbors. Maybe they had their bandmates over for regular jam sessions. Maybe they decided to do some remodeling while you were sleeping. But, whatever the case, I think it’s safe to assume that you never had neighbors quite like Pete and Ray—the two obnoxious drunks who inspired the cult sensation that’s the focus of director Matthew Bate’s disturbingly hilarious documentary, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure.

In 1987, college grads Eddie and Mitch decided to leave Wisconsin to start a much cooler life in San Francisco. There, they found a cheap apartment in a bright pink building at 237 Steiner Street—but the apartment came with a slight nuisance: the neighbors.

  
 
Shortly after they moved in, Eddie and Mitch started hearing the neighbors screaming drunken obscenities at each other at all hours of the night. Eventually, Eddie decided to confront them about the noise—but when the man inside the apartment threatened to kill him, Eddie and Mitch decided to start recording the neighbors, just in case they needed evidence to present to the police.

Soon, however, the recordings became an obsession. During their time on Steiner Street, Eddie and Mitch collected hours and hours of recordings of angry homophobe Ray and bitchy queen Peter (with occasional input by intermittent roommate Tony). And, after copies of the tapes started circulating, the drunken neighbors became a cult phenomenon.

Shut Up Little Man documents every aspect of the Pete and Ray recordings—from their creation to their cult following to the various attempts to bring them to the big screen.

While wild and crazy 20-something Eddie and Mitch (captured in stills throughout the film) and middle-aged Eddie and Mitch (both of whom have since returned to the Midwest) make entertaining guides on this bizarre journey, Pete and Ray are still the film’s real stars. The clips of their booze-fueled bickering (which are often hilariously dramatized by actors, cartoons, and even Pete and Ray puppets) are the highlight of the film. They’re shockingly, disturbingly funny—made all the more compelling by the fact that they’re real recordings of real men.

At times, though, the film gets a bit sidetracked, discussing other examples of “audio vérité,” which, while interesting (especially a bootleg of a cranky Orson Welles attempting to record a commercial), don’t really add to the story of Pete and Ray. At other times, it gets a little too caught up in the resulting Pete and Ray phenomenon—and the drama of trying to turn the tapes into a big Hollywood production. Instead, it would have been nice to hear more about (and from) Pete and Ray—more about Eddie and Mitch’s Steiner Street exploits and more clips from the recordings.

Shut Up Little Man! is such a strange train wreck of an audio-visual (mis)adventure. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh (even though you’ll feel guilty for it), but you’ll also be absolutely horrified by Pete and Ray’s tragic real-life exploits. If nothing else, after it’s over, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for your own neighbors.


Ed. Note: Shut Up Little Man! is currently making its way to theaters around the States. If it’s not showing at a theater near you, you can also view it online through Amazon’s Instant Video.

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