Live Screening Screams Abound in It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Filmmakers bring their found-footage horror to Fallout Theater on its IRL-only tour

Married filmmakers Nick Toti and Rachel Kempf (Photo by Dereck Daschke)

There’s this movie you should see, and, for one specific scene especially, you really should see it live. In fact, you have to see it live because that’s the only way filmmakers Nick Toti and Rachel Kempf are releasing it. We can’t say too much about It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This for fear of spoiling the experience, except that it’s a found footage horror that builds on the filmmakers’ real lives in such a way that you’re never really sure how much of it really happened. Intrigued? Same here.

Other than the folks in the media pre-screening for articles like this, the only way audiences can see the Queer Fear Film Festival Audience Award winner is at a live screening; it’ll never be streaming, just like Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (2022). Toti and Kempf say that was a choice made from the beginning of the project, and they’ve been taking the film around to screen anywhere they can. Lucky for ATX, that includes their old stomping grounds. Though they now reside in the film’s setting of rural Kirksville, Missouri, pop. 17,500, filmmaking and life partners Toti and Kempf learned the trade here in Austin: Toti through years of DIY indie film shoots and Kempf via UT-Austin’s stellar RTF graduate program.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better uses two decades’ worth of archival footage from Kempf, Toti, and co-star/true life bestie Christian’s lives together to build a narrative framework centered around the purchase of a dilapidated duplex they buy to use as a horror movie set, which really did happen. There are seances, creepy people transfixed by the house, eerie discoveries – things get weird. But how much footage was improvised, and how much wasn’t? "I don’t even think of this as being fiction," Toti says. "I think of it as being a documentary about an alternate dimension version of us."

Kempf says that they used "actual footage of our lives, and we’ve known each other forever, been filming ourselves for decades." She also says that close friends admitted they had "no idea what was real and what wasn’t." As a viewer without much knowledge of the couple, it was fun to try to guess where the line between fact and fiction is drawn. Knowing that close friends couldn’t pinpoint that line either is a testament to the filmmakers’ skill. New York Times bestselling author David Shields, whose book Reality Hunger is a manifesto about that very topic, is a fan and called It Doesn’t Get Any Better "utterly great."

The movie undoubtedly has a different feel when streaming it at home alone as opposed to watching it live in an audience with the filmmakers. Kempf says that past attendees have said things like, “I went through so many cycles: being scared, annoyed, anxious” – which the filmmakers laughingly say “is basically what we wanted!” You’ll want to put your phone away, pay attention, and be immersed in this world. It’s hard to say much without spoiling it, but there are some unnerving moments reminiscent of The Leftovers and The Strangers that will have you crawling out of your skin.

So let’s give them a warm welcome as they bring their latest project to their old home, and, if you need more of Toti and Kempf’s specific scares, check out their horror printing press, DieDieBooks, at

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Saturday 24, Fallout Theater

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