Thursday, May 23, 2024

Social Media Monster (2021) releases May 31 Amazon and other platforms

Several years ago ago Matthew Berdyck walked into an IHOP in St. Joseph Missouri to ask for help because he said he saw a man strangling a woman in car in the parking lot. What happened after that is a story that would be completely unbelievable if it weren't true. It is a tale involving among other things stalking, harassment, endless emails and social media posts, alleged corruption, a rock song, restraining orders, criminal charges, a benefit concert, the FBI, the founding of a "news" outlet, threats to shoot up a bar, threats to blow up a nuclear plant and more. It is tale where the two sides, Berdyck on one side and the rest of the world on the other,  dispute what happened...except that all of the video and the hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation was all supplied by Matthew Berdyck  and  refutes pretty much everything that Berdyck said happened.

Belt in ladies and gentlemen you are about to have your minds blown by one hell of tale. You will not believe what you are seeing, but it's true, you'll see the emails and video to prove it. It's a tale so crazy that that there is going to be another movie so you know what happened after the credits rolled. 

To be honest the story is so crazy and so out there that it's impossible to summarize. Simply put it's the story of a man who had a disagreement with the people at an IHOP and then flooded everyone with unending emails and threats in order to get his way, and it eventually, escalated after years to the point where he threatened to blow up a nuclear power plant... and that's probably not the craziest part of the story (no, really it's not).

SOCIAL MEDIA MONSTER's director Peter John Ross  discovered the story of Matthew Berdyck by accident when Berdyck dragged him into what was happening in  St. Joseph, Missouri. Why Ross was brought into the mess wasn't immediately clear, since Ross is a filmmaker who didn't live anywhere near St Joseph and had nothing to do with anything that was happening in a city 11 hours away. For a good long while Ross was lost as to why he was mentioned. His inclusion resulted in his receiving lots of threats of legal action (which never materialized), Berdyck contacting everyone he ever worked with and thousands of emails in his email box. For well over the last decade Berdyck has become part of Ross' life, and the lives of many people in St Joseph, whether he, or they,wanted him to be or not. 

This film is an attempt to tell the story of what is occurring to the people in St. Joseph who are still being flooded with emails, threats and utter nonsense by a man with no clear day job and computer.

I need to say in fairness this film is "not" the story from Berdyck's point of view. Berdyck is supposedly hard at work on a film that will tell the "real" story  and expose everyone who has ever wronged him. When Mr. Berdyck's film is released I will take a look and see what the real story is and get a review up.  I promise that if Mr Berdyck's film is everything he says it will be I will apologize.

Until we get Berdyck's version of the story we have Ross' film which is made up of the eyewitness testimony of the people who were there for the last decade, video culled from the hundreds of hours of material posted by Berdyck on the internet, the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pages of emails and screen grabs of Facebook and social media posts from Berdyck, as well as the reports from various local and federal law enforcement agencies who keep getting called into the unending affair. It's a story so crazy  that Ross has made available a vast file of supporting documents to back up every point made in the film (and it's all from Berdyck- this last point can't be stressed enough- it is all Berdyck's own words and video- most of which he denies expressing - because he got caught lying). 

Frankly there is so much material in this film and in support of it that I am having a hard time imagining what was left out or misrepresented (I mean the FBI says that the threats against the nuclear power plant came from his computer and cellphone which they said wasn't hacked). However, I want to keep an open mind and I will wait to make my final decision as to what this affair is really about until I see the film that Berdyck is making.

That said, I would be hard pressed to fathom what Berdyck could say that would refute anything that is in this film since outside of the witness testimony this is all material that he put out onto the internet in one way or another. Pretty much everything he has put forward tells a different story then the one he is selling. It's not tampered or made up footage, its the material he is using to support his claims of being wronged, except it doesn't.

Yes, I know that doesn't give you details- but trust me, just see this and go for the ride and you'll know why I'm not explaining it all. Basically if I start to explain it all I won't stop talking. It's kind of a miracle that Ross got s much of it as he did into 90 minutes.

I don't know where to start other than to say that this is one of the most compelling films I've seen in years. It was completely off my radar until I was contacted by Mr Ross. Some how despite playing at over 50 festivals it never crossed my desk which seems shocking...until you realize that anything to do with the story comes with the added bonus of emails from Mr. Berdyck. I'm guessing people were frightened off. 

What makes this films work is how Ross keeps this a personal story. It's the story of everyone of screen from the people at IHOP, to the people of St Joseph, to Ross himself and even to Berdyck. Ross makes us feel like we are all hanging out in a coffee shop talking about this crazy thing that just happened and we all can't stop talking. In the case of the audience, we can't stop watching...or talking... to the screen or anyone in the room with us.

This is just great filmmaking.

This is the exact sort of film I keep Unseen Films going to find, compelling films that seem to come from nowhere which keep you watching from the very first frame until the last. I put the film on one night about a week ago and just sat there staring at the screen, talking to it, until the credits finished rolling. 

What in the holy hell was I seeing?

I still am not sure, other than this is one hell of a tale and I can't wait to hear what happens next.(There are plans for a sequel)

The way the film is structured is as a series of events involving Berdyck where he gives us his take on things and how he was wronged and then we hear from the actual people involved who give us their take. Things escalate as the events that Berdyck set in motion go in unexpected ways and he tries to recover and explain what he really was doing. There are endless surprises, and trust me, you will not guess where this is going.

I also have to say, stay with the film. Ross takes his time revealing everything you need to know. For example the question of Berdyck's finances stuck in my brain until Ross covered it in detail. Don't worry Ross will cover it all. (Perhaps the only thing missing is a more detailed look at Berdyck's past but having talked with Ross I understand why that will be told in the next film - its a story unto itself)

I have to really praise Ross for making a film that gets under your skin and drags you along. It's a film you are going to want to share with friends and family members because they need to see this unbelievable tale as well. 

What makes this film so special is that Ross has all the receipts, and the receipts' receipts, and then some things that no one knew existed, in order to back up everything he is saying. There is even footage of Berdyck waffling on his positions. This maybe the best researched and factually supported film I've ever run across, ever. My initial contact with Mr Ross was filled with links to material that supported what he wrote to me.  My messages to him after that, something so simple as a yes and no question, brought more links and screen shots.  This is not bringing your "A" Game to the table, but resetting the rules and taking them to another level. 

Simply put, Peter John Ross has made a documentary that is so perfectly researched it puts every other documantarian to shame. In many ways this is as perfect a documentary as you can make. If this were a computer program where you could link to get more information by clicking a link- you would be clicking and reading for days for every minute of the film. It could be argued this is one of the best doc ever made.

I suspect that as much as Berdyck doesn't want this film to be seen, he is going to be in heaven when it hits because of all the people the film is going to drive people his way to see his side of the story. 

And be aware if you post any comments anywhere about this film or its subject, odds are you will get a response from Mr Berdyck - who, it is said, comments on anything to do with himself, this film (which he claims doesn't exist) or anything to do with the story in the film.

I can't wait to see what the next chapters bring. 

Put SOCIAL MEDIA MONSTER on your radar and see it when you can. It releases May 31 and hits streaming on the platforms like Amazon soon after.


In the interest of fairness I need to report Mr Berdyck contacted me and said that there were errors in my review.

He states that he is currently employed “working national news videographer and source for New York Times”.  I have not been able to confirm his current status with the Times.

He also takes exception to the mention of the threats to the nuclear power plant. However based on the information at my disposal the threats did happen and were sourced as coming from his phone and computer.

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