The Historian: Review

The Historian is the first feature film by Miles Doleac.

Who is Miles Doleac? You may recognise him from such TV shows as American Horror Story (2014), Containment (2016), or The Astronaut Wives Club (2015). Writer, actor, producer, and director, he is also a history professor in real life, and he really wants you to know it. He named his production company Historia, so we won’t forget. 

Starting with The Historian, it looks like he’s cycling through genres until he hits upon one that fits. Romantic drama wasn’t an inspiring start, but perhaps he needed to get the history lessons out of his system first. Following on from his debut feature, are a handful of short films, and the crime/mystery drama The Hollow (2016).

Then the 2017 horror Demons, and a second horror, Hallowed Ground, in 2019. That one includes lesbians, so expect them to be well written characters. In 2020 he teams up with Michael Donovan Horn for a horror/thriller The Dinner Party, so it looks like he has found his niche. Plenty of special effects, and room for corny acting.

The Historian
The Historian

His films include regular appearances from William Sadler, best known for roles in Die Hard 2 (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and of course, as the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991). Sadler is returning as the Grim Reaper in the upcoming Bill & Ted Face the Music. Side note: I wholeheartedly agree with Hannah Ines Flint on the matter of Keanu’s beard (or lack thereof). 

So back to The Historian. Originally released in 2014, it is just over two hours long. If you have time to fill, other films clocking in at two hours plus change include Serpico (1973), Raging Bull (1980), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). 

The Historian drags—I had to watch it in two sittings, tired from all the eye-rolling. The script is littered with such profundities as “I hate death. It sucks balls”. And the combination of too many close-ups, and odd editing choices make for awkward viewing.

Then there is a horribly handled case of sexual assault, in which our hero repeatedly shouts “What did he do to you?!” in the face of the victim under the guise of protecting her. A little later, he interrupts her in the middle of her sit-down-cry-shower in order to give her a history lecture. Seriously dude, you’re not even going to pass her a towel? 

The Historian
The Historian

Doleac places himself front and centre as Professor Ben Rhodes, with hot young grad students swooning as he enters the room. There’s some Very Big Acting from minor characters, and painful attempts to give said characters depth: The sidekick, a zany professor guy (Colin Cunningham), is high energy. He smokes lots of cigarettes, see. And he dresses as a cowboy. And he likes guns. Every time Professor Rhodes gets stressed out he takes a swig from the handy bottle of pepto bismol. At this point I could be describing a Neil Breen picture. The Historian is not as bad as, say, Fateful Findings, but it certainly shares some of the Breen markers.

Doleac has the makings of a Breen type cult filmmaker. He’s no match for Tommy Wiseau, but it might not be such a terrible thing if he gave his ego free rein.

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.