Sunday, 7 April 2013

5 Frightening Found Footage Films

Ever since "The Blair Witch Project" revitalized the found footage genre in 1999, studios and film makers have been desperately trying create the next big realistic scare.  These films have an advantage of being shot with a smaller budget and can reap a larger profit when released but their disadvantage is trying to create something that looks authentic and have people belive that these stories are true.  When "Cannibal Holocaust" was released, Deodato was arrested because they thought the film was a snuff film and the actors were murdered.  When in fact, Deodato had the actors sign a contract saying they wouldn't appear in the media for at least a year.  Eventually, he had to bring them all on national television to prove that the were fine.  "Blair Witch" was similar to some extent and used the internet to create a legend or background to the mythos that they were trying to sell before releasing the film.  So, people could point to their computer and say, "look it's real".
  Have the descendents of these films, created the same sort of emotional impact on the film community or have we been stuck with bad home videos of horror? 
Here are 5 Frightening Found Footage Films

5. August Underground (2001) - A guy invites his friend with a video camera into his basement where he has a women, who has been tortured, tied to a chair and her boyfriend is dead in the bathtub in the next room.  These guys then go out and attack and kill people for no reason.
  Whenever I search any depraved film lists on IMDB or anywhere else, these August Underground films pop up.  I've seen the 2nd one "August Underground Mordem", not knowing it was a trilogy and I wasn't that excited to see this one.  Sure, they have people drenched in blood and there are violent scenes but there's absolutely no story to this.  It's just random acts of violence perpetrated for shock value and when I watch this, it feels like I'm watching someone's home movies about their vacation and I don't really care.  The killers aren't even interesting and really have no imagination.  It's like Beavis and Butthead went out and caught a girl were then going to torture her.  "I'm going to make her eat poop!" one says and the other pours urine on her.  Who cares.  There is no tension and I can't believe these characters could out wit their moms, let alone the police and how they haven't been caught is beyond me.  It's only 70 minutes, thank goodness, but that could be put to better use making your own horror snuff movie.

4. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) - A documentary crew comes to a small town at the request of a future serial killer named Leslie Vernon.  He explains that his mother was raped by a psycho and when he was born, she saw that she was raising a madmen as well. Eventually he killed his dad and hung his mother with a rope in the orchard.  The town found out, was enraged and threw him off over the waterfalls.
  Now he has return and wishes to get revenge on the town by murdering a group of teens.  He explains how he's going to do it and with the help of his mentor, Eugene, he sets up a killing ground that any of the high profile killers like Myers, Voorhees or Krueger would be proud of.  But once everything is set in motion, can the documentary host, Taylor Gentry let this madman kill those kids for her movie or does this killer have other plans for her and her crew.
  I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this and the only real flaw in this film is that it keeps switching from found footage to an actual movie, which can be annoying at times.  It takes you right out of the believability of the story, when characters start showing up in clips of things that hasn't happened yet or everybody puts the camera down and the movie keeps going.
  Nathan Baesel plays the Leslie Vernon character to a tee.  He's funny and quirky but when it comes to the serial killer business that whole demeanor changes and he lethal and methodical.  Angela Goethals, who plays Taylor, is great as well.  Her character seems to enjoy all the stalking and antics of Vernon until she realizes that it's not just a game.  She finally realizes that Vernon is serious and she just can't stand by and him execute these children one by one.  Excellent supporting cast with Robert England (Nightmare on Elm Street), Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist) and Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), and just having them in the film makes it better.  As horror comedies go, this one is pretty good and you'll definitely have some laughs at the breaking down of the 4th wall.  Vernon explains his plans and you can see elements of other films inside his.  There are some excellent kill scenes that are good and horror fans shouldn't be disappointed with this one.

3. Grave Encounters (2011) - The movie starts with the producer of the video explaining that this group was shooting a television series on paranormal sites and that these tapes were found after the team went missing and the tapes have only been edited for time.
  The film then begins with Lance Preston and his team of paranormal investigators shooting their six episode at an abandoned mental institution.  After six shows, Lance is not expecting to see any ghosts or anything extraordinary.  He pays off a grounds keeper to lie and brings in so people to talk about their  haunting experiences inside the institution.  The team discover a bathtub where a patient killed herself, a window that mysteriously opens by itself and they hear tale of a doctor that was killed by a mob of patients for performing unnecessary lobotomies on them.  Lance and his team decide to spend the night there and have the caretaker chain to door of the building.
  That night they set up cameras throughout the building and then in the dark hours start searching for these phantoms of former patients.  They go through the building checking the supernatural hot spots recommended by the people they interviewed and come up with nothing.  Until, their cameraman, T.C. goes into a room and has a door slammed shut on him! Then Matt, their tech guy, disappears while trying to retrieve some visual and sound equipment.  Lance, T.C. and Sasha, the sound girl start to search the building for Matt but some weird things start to occur, like the front door is no longer the front door and leads to other areas of the building, some staircases lead up or down to concrete walls and the sun hasn't risen although these watches say it's the middle of the afternoon!  Can this team of ghost hunters escape this mental institution or will they go mad from horrors that have yet to appear?
  This was pretty good and it had some nice scares in it.  I thought it was funny that most of the characters are actually skeptical about ghosts and they just do the show to get paid.  Makes me wonder how many of those shows are truly like that.  The special effects are good but you can tell the directors, the Vicious Brothers are working with a limited budget.  Still, well made horror movie and I can't wait to see the sequel.

2. The Last Exorcism (2010) - Cotton Marcus has been a evangelical preacher for a long time.  It started when his father thought having a child preacher would be a good hook and bring in larger crowds but as Cotton has grown and his faith has fallen to the wayside.  He explains to the documentary crew that he has done a number of exorcisms and the only thing that he's really exorcised is the idea of demons out of people's minds.  He claims that there are no real demons and since he read about a child dying during an exorcism, he wants to try and put a stop to them all together.  Out of the handful of letters, that he receives daily, he blindly chooses one about a girl, Nell who is possessed by a demon and is killing the live stock at her family's farm.  He tells the team to get ready and they head out to "exorcise" this girls demons.
  When they arrive, they are confronted my a teenage boy who tells them to leave.  Cotton and his team refuse and the boy starts throwing rocks at their car.  They take off and get to the Sweetzer farm, where they meet Nell's father Louis Sweetzer and discover that the boy throwing the rocks was Louis's son Caleb.  Caleb and Cotton sort things out and then Cotton goes in the house to meet with Nell.  He asks her a number of probing questions and then sits down with Louis with his book of demons.  He flips through the book and tells Louis that his daughter is possessed by a demon named Abalam.  He asks the Sweetzer family to excuse him as he prepares Nell's room for the exorcism.  In the room, Cotton explains to his camera crew a few of the tricks of the trade, like clear fishing wire to move things, hidden speakers & his ipod that have dozens of demon sounds and a smoking crucifix which signifies the demon is gone.  Cotton then gives a stunning performance and cast out the demon from Nell.  He collects his money from Mr. Sweetzer and he leaves with his team to their motel for a good night sleep.
  However, in the middle of the night Nell shows up distraught in Cotton's room.  They bring her to the hospital and Louis checks her out of there right away.  Cotton and his crew follow them back to the farm and Nell slashes Caleb's face with a knife.  Things are getting out of hand and Cotton is not sure if there is a real demon is inside the girl or if it's something else!  Has Cotton finally found the true demon, but his lose of faith has weakened him in this battle for this poor girl's soul or is he the one being conned by a teenage hustler who is in a whole different world of trouble?
  I really enjoyed this film partially because it shows how much baloney goes into these evangelical shows and how a modern exorcism can actually be really harmful to the people being exorcised.  Anyway, Patrick Fabian is terrific as Cotton, he's charming, funny and everything you'd want a huckster preacher to be and he even does magic.  Ashley Bell was great as well, I don't even mind the contorted body motions that have become so cliche in horror today.  The cat and mouse game of is it a demon, is it no a demon angle is played up really well by director Daniel Stamm and I really loved the ending because it was so unexpected and old school, that it is really worth the price of admission.  It's not very gory but it has a great plot and I think your just has surprised as the characters are when it comes to the ending.  This one has a sequel two, but how could it be the last then?

1. Noroi: The Curse (2005) - The film begins by explaining that paranormal expert and documentary film maker, Masafumi Kobayashi has disappeared, his house has been burnt down and his wife was killed in the fire while  he was investigating the most disturbing supernatural occurence in his career.
  The film then begins with Kobayashi talking with a woman about her strange neighbour, Junko Ishii, who lives with her 8 year old son, next door.  The woman tells Kobayashi about the weird baby sounds that come from Ishii's apartment and when he goes over to speak with the Ishii, Kobayashi discovers a number of dead pigeons around her home.  When Ishii answers the door, she tears into Kobayashi and he and his camera man just have to leave because of the crazy.  Shortly after this meeting, the woman neighbour perishes in a car accident and Ishii and her son have disappeared.
  On a TV program, Kana Yano, another acquaintance of Kobayashi's,  exhibits her amazing psychic powers and is kidnapped from her family shortly after.  While on another TV program, Kobayashi is being interview about the supernatural with another actress, Marika Matsumoto, who was attacked by a spirit on yet another supernatural reality show, when she is the attack by a another guest, a tin foil hat wearing psychic named, Hiro!  Hiro believes that Marika is being eaten by ectoplasmic worms and he is trying to save her.  He also was a friend of the missing psyhic girl, Kana Yano.
  However, Marika has troubles of her own, lately she has been fashioning looped nooses around the house out of wire while she has been sleeping.  So, Kobayashi films Marika one evening and while watching the tape the next morning, he hears her growling the name Kagutaba while she's a sleep.  After investigating the name Kagutaba, he discovers that it was a demon that hung around the small village of Shimokage.  This village was suppose to be a community of sorcerers who accidentally rose the demon, Kagutaba and every year since then they have been performing a sacred ritual to keep this demon at bay.  Unfortunately, something went wrong the last year while it was being performed by Junko Ishii and her father.  What!  Yep, Junko Ishii played the demon, passed out and now may be controlling her! Shut the front door!  Kobayashi races down to Shimokage, only to discover that Ishii home is covered in the looped nooses and the ground is covered in dead pigeons. Not the best look.  Also, Ishii and her son were there but they are gone again!  Now Kobayashi with the help of Marika and Hiro must find Ishii, try and stop this demon and save Kana Yano!
  It sounds more convoluted and confusing then it really is and when you start watching it, it does make sense.  Director Koji Shiraishi directs a terrific little pot boiler and has a truly unforgettable ending.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the Hiro character.  I wish they didn't make him seem cartoonishly crazy.  Tin foil hat and coat and screamed way more often than needed too.  I thought that if his character was toned down a tad, he wouldn't be as annoying.  Good film though but make sure you turn off the lights for this one or maybe you should leave them on.

Found footage films will probably never disappear and I don't think any film will recreate the same sort of buzz or impact that films like "The Blair Witch Project" or "Cannibal Holocaust" had on it's audience.  Nowadays I think the audience is too savvy and have access to too much information for them to be truly fooled into thinking that what they're seeing is real.  Unfortunately, when I watch these films, I'm looking for a good story and not the next urban legend that these films are suppose to generated.

1 comment:

  1. I gotta see this Noroi one, Japanese horror has really floated my boat lately.