Also released on On Demand last week, "Zero Charisma" is a dark, satirical send-up of nerd culture that deftly sidesteps stereotypes or passing judgment on its characters. From first-time directors Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews (who also wrote the screenplay), the film focuses on how geeky interests have become mainstream, and what it truly means to be a nerd. The story follows Scott (Sam Eidson, in a boldly unsympathetic performance), a burly, uptight, control freak who lives with his grandmother, and whose entire life revolves around his role as game master of a Dungeon & Dragons-esque tabletop RPG of his own design. His life, already held together by a very thin thread, begins to unravel, first when he's forced to find a new player for his long-running gaming group, and then when his estranged mother suddenly re-enters his life. Scott's gaming problems at first seem to be solved when he recruits Miles (Garrett Graham), a "hipster" nerd who is handsome, charming, and has an interest in RPGs. But when Miles seems to be stealing Scott's group of friends out from under him, Scott starts to see a scapegoat for everything that's gone wrong in his life. Refusing to be undermined by what he sees as a tourist in the world of geekdom, a rivalry begins between the two men, which quickly spirals out of control.
Scott and Miles each represent different sides of the nerd coin, and while Matthews' script mostly avoids taking sides, this is definitely Scott's story. Unfortunately, this means Miles' character gets short shrift in the development department, making their battle of wills a little more one-sided than I would have liked. But Scott is a fantastic character; while the script often makes him as unlikeable as possible, it always makes sure we understand him, and Eidson never loses sight of his humanity. His story is funny, affectionate, and ultimately a little heartbreaking.