The very “artiness” of the performance makes it both ridiculous and pleasurable. Cantor satirizes genre clichés (“Wait! He isn’t dead! Shia surprise!”) and highlights the incongruity between the exceedingly messy and corporeal obsessions of the horror film and the more refined and conceptual ambitions of capital-A Art. (It’s also worth pointing out that the video acknowledges how art engages in the common slippage between the twinned taboos of sex and murder, with the murderous hunt eroticized by the dancers as a heterosexual pas de deux.)
But who is the audience for this performance? Cantor addresses the story in the present tense to “you,” the victim on the run from Shia LaBeouf. And “you” ultimately, despite having lost a leg in a bear trap, decapitate the homicidal superstar. But when the performance is over, the video reveals that the show has been performed for an audience of one: not the victim, but the killer, Shia LaBeouf himself. The address has shifted from the hunted to the hunter.
LaBeouf, alone in the audience and in formal evening wear, vigorously applauds the performance, but he also looks a little self-conscious and troubled. In the conflicting emotions flashing across his face, I see the deep ambivalence that any audience member might experience in seeing him- or herself depicted as a killer. It’s potentially thrilling to imagine oneself as an almost super-human villain, letting go of social repression and indulging in the taboo. Once the houselights come back on, however, the super-ego represses those id-driven fantasies, and the killer must go back into hiding. Witnessing himself in the mirror of artistic representation, LaBeouf seems both thrilled by and somewhat ashamed of his murderous self.
But for the length of the performance, it’s a pleasure to imagine Shia LaBeouf going for the kill.