Posts Tagged ‘Found Footage’

Cannibal Holocaust

Directed By: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Robert Kerman, Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Luca Giorgio Barbareschi, Perry Pirkanen

Synopsis: A documentary film crew goes missing in The Amazon and a rescue mission finds only their lost footage.

Thoughts: This is quite possibly the most notorious of the Video Nasties. Director Ruggero Deodato was charged with obscenity shortly after the premier and would later, he would even have to defend himself against murder charges! Only after gathering the actors for an interview, and showing footage of how the rigged the impalement scene, were the murder charges dropped.

Cannibal Holocaust is a very well made film. The social commentary and raw violence will shake all but the most hardened viewers. Included in that violence are a couple of scenes of animal cruelty (animal deaths really). Deodato would later regret introducing the animal scenes in the film. Scenes like this don’t bother me too much, as I grew up on a farm. It helps knowing that the animals killed here were eaten by the cast and crew.

The cast did a phenomenal job, even though I hated almost all of them! The original crew that went missing were the real savages here, which is what Deodato was striving to show. We fear what we don’t understand, such as indingenous Amazon tribes, but in reality, we can be much more terrifying.

You don’t see a lot of discussion around it, but Cannibal Hoocaust is one of the early “found footage” movies. Deodato used this method to great effect, without giving us the “shaky cam” that makes recent found footage difficult to watch at times.

Cannibal Holocaust is one of the those movies that every film fan, not just genre fan, should see. It’s not something that I revisit often, but have seen it enough times that the shock has worn of a bit. It’s still not a pleasant experience, but that’s what Deodato wanted. It truly earned its place as a Video Nasty.

How Nasty Is It?
Pretty damn nasty! There are gruesome scenes throughout the movie. There’s on screen animal deaths. There’s cannibalism. Many of the movies on the Video Nasty list make it based on one scene, or even a title or VHS cover. This is not one of them.

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blair-witch-2016-trailer-poster

Directed By: Adam Wingard 

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Synopsis: James Donohue ventures into the woods to look for his sister, Heather, who was one of the three missing from the original Blair Witch Project.

Thoughts:

I experienced the first Blair Witch movie back in 1999 in the theatre. I went in knowing nothing, not even having seen a trailer for it. A friend called me and told me to go see it, but not to read anything about it beforehand. I found it to be one of the scariest experiences I had ever had in a theatre. The climax literally had me on the edge of my seat and I think I just about ripped the arm of the chair off.

Fast forward to Comic Con this year and I hear news of Adam Wingard’s (You’re Next) upcoming movie titled The Woods is actually titled Blair Witch! I’m a big fan of Wingard, so was eager to see his take on what I think is one of the best found footage movies out there. I elected to follow a similar route and not check out any trailers, read any articles and do my best to avoid discussions on social media about Blair Witch. I was successful (for the most part) having only seen a portion of the trailer (the tunnel scene). Going in, I didn’t know if it was a remake, sequel or just another chapter in the mythology.

It turns out that it is a direct sequel to the original, with James going into the woods to try and find Heather, his sister and lead in the original. He takes some friends with him, as well as some locals that know the mythology. Without going into details, the events are similar to the first movie, but amped up tenfold. I found this entry to be much scarier than the first. I’m sure some of that is due to an increased budget, allowing for some special effects and one particularly brutal onscreen death.

Another improvement is the cast and script. In rewatching the original, the initial scenes and build up are pretty boring. Blair Witch has a similar build up, but I found the characters much more interesting. There was some humor weaved into dialogue as well, and I thought that really worked, especially the interaction between Peter and Lane.

Once things start getting crazy in the woods, it’s nonstop. A major difference is that you actually see the Blair Witch. I’m not sure how I feel about her onscreen appearance. It was a bold move by Wingard and writer Simon Barett. I’m hoping that when it makes its home video release there are some special features around the design and look of the Blair Witch. I have my suspicions on influence for her design, but would like to hear from Wingard about it.

If you’re a fan of the original, I think this is a can’t miss movie. If you don’t like the original, or found footage movies in general, then don’t waste your time. Blair Witch doesn’t bring anything new to the subgenre, it’s just a well-made movie that builds on the original mythology.

Pyramid

Directed By: Gregory Levasseur

Starring: Ashley Hinsaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Christa-Marie Nicola, Amir K

Synopsis: Archeologists uncover a pyramid in Egypt and find that it is not empty.

Thoughts: Found footage has been overdone for quite a while now, but it really is a viable medium, especially when done right. The Pyramid uses a hybrid approach to found footage, using it at times as there is a videographer with the team, filming a documentary, but also pulling back quite often to tell the story. I found it to very effective, but it’s not for everyone. I have read of some people complaining about the format.

The cast is largely unknown, but there is one familiar faces, Denis O’Hare, who played Russell Edgington in True Blood and is also a regular contributor to American Horror Story. Here he plays one of the archeologists exploring the ruins. The cast performs well, but many of the characters don’t leave a lasting impact outside of the movie’s runtime.

The real star of The Pyramid is the setting and the creatures. I’ve always found the history and mythology of Egypt to be fascinating. Their customs and beliefs really fuel some great stories, and this is no exception. I won’t go into too much detail about what the team finds in the pyramid, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Overall, this is a good watch. I enjoyed it, but it probably won’t be something I revisit often. If you’ve got a distaste for any sort of first person camera work, you’ll likely want to avoid this one, but I thought it had a great mix.

Hollow (2011)

Posted: May 27, 2013 in Movie Review
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Hollow

Directed By: Michael Axelgaard

Starring: Emily Plumtree, Sam Stockman, Matt Stokoe, Jessica Ellerby, Simon Roberts

Subgenre: Supernatural

Synopsis: A group of friends attempt to solve the mystery of an ancient tree where young lovers have been hanging themselves for generations.

Thoughts: Marketing is often a major part in a film’s success.  For horror movies, a good cover is often enough to spark a fans interest, and Hollow did just that.  As I was cruising through the Netflix catacombs, I stopped on the freaky looking tree with the hangman’s noose and thought I found a winner.

Hollow is a British film with a British cast.  None of the players were known to me, but I wasn’t impressed with any of the characters.  I find it difficult to actually judge the acting, as all of the characters were rather unlikable.  I’ve said it many times before, but when the cast of a horror movie is riddled with assholes, it’s hard to care whether they survive or not.

I am less inclined than most to dismiss found footage films and am one of those people that still loves the original Blair Witch. My defense of the style gets harder and harder with each mediocre to horrible release.  Michael Axelgaard doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, and as a matter of fact, the climax is rather reminiscent of Blair Witch.

To top of cast of unsavory characters and a retread filming style, Hollow is boring.  The first 45 minutes or so are numbingly slow. I guess you can say that the movie is trying to build tension and storyline, but when you don’t have compelling characters, the slow burn just becomes boring. I’ve loved some of the recent genre entries that build slowly to a climax (see Ti West), and maybe that is what Hollow was aspiring to be, but I found myself having issues focusing on the movie.  When it came time for the finale, there were a few tense moments, but they seemed to be pulled right from the Blair Witch playbook.  It wasn’t worth the wait.

Pass on Hollow horror fans, there are much better movies out there, found footage or otherwise.  The best part of the movie is the poster.

REC 2

Directed By: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza

Starring:

Subgenre: Zombies

Synopsis: Picking up minutes after the end of the last film, a crack team goes in to investigate the source of the virus.

Thoughts: I was surprised to see that [REC] 2 started right after the first movie and that the setting stayed the same.  I thought it was a pretty bold move, but one that worked reasonably well.  The biggest issue I had is that the apartment building needed to be “repopulated” for the sequel, and some of the scenarios to make that happen where stretched a bit. The actual setting was fantastic and made for some incredibly tense scenes.

Instead of rehashing the action, a major twist in the source of the virus is incorporated into the story.  I’m not a huge fan of the new direction, but at least they tried for something a little different. 

While the cast is solid, it wasn’t quite as good as the first movie.  I can’t put my finger on it, but it seemed as if the first movie just had better chemistry.  Manuela Velasco returns as Angela, the reporter from the first film and does a good job, but I just didn’t get into the characters here the way I did the first one.

Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza return to direct, so the movie has a very familiar feel from behind the camera.  These guys really know how to work within the handheld camera realm.  The action is always kinetic, but I didn’t find myself disoriented very often.

While [REC] 2 didn’t live up to the pedigree of the first film, it is pretty good in its own right.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Halloween II, in that it loses a lot from the first movie, but is still an above average movie.  I recommend checking it out, preferably as a double feature with the first movie.

[REC ] (2007)

Posted: October 7, 2012 in Movie Review
Tags: ,

REC

Directed By: Paco Plaza & Jaume Balaguero

Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferrán Terraza, Pablo Rosso, Jorge-Yaman Serrano, David Vert

Subgenre: Zombies

Synopsis: A news crew is trapped in an apartment building where a nasty virus is running rampant, turning people in raving zombies.

Thoughts: It really is a shame that American audiences don’t embrace foreign movies more. While [REC] may not be a well-known film to American audiences, its American remake Quarantine probably is.  I was one of many that watched Quarantine prior to [REC], mostly due to the crawl like pace that the original was released in Region 1. I thought that Quarantine was a decent little flick, but for some reason [REC] took the tension to another level. I thought the ending was better explained and seemed even creepier than the remake.

[REC] tells the story of a reporter and her cameraman as they follow a couple of firefighters for the night to get a better idea of their daily routine. They follow a call to an apartment building and soon find themselves trapped inside the building along with all the other residents and a couple of police officers. The twist is that it isn’t some deranged killer holding them captive, but government officials quarantining the building due to a possible virus. The virus proves to be very real, and the infected behave a lot like the fast moving zombies of 28 Days Later… Will anyone survive the night?

I think that the hand held camera genre of horror is a bit of a mixed bag, but when done well, can be very effective. [REC] is at the top of the list of these movies, as far as I am concerned. I am a fan of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, but I think [REC] tops them both.

In a lot of hand held, found footage type of movies, the acting is not the focal point, however, in REC, the acting is very well done, and comes across as very real.    There were a few times were I questioned the main characters adamant stance on recording every detail of the night, but that is just a leap of faith that a viewer has to take in a movie like this.  If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything to watch.

[REC] is well worth your time. Spain has dropped some amazing genre titles in the last few years, but most of them have been slower paced ghost stories (The Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone to name a few). [REC] is anything but slow paced. The tension starts to build as soon as the group enters the apartment building and by the conclusion the tension is near unbearable.

VHS

Directed By: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard, Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Joe Sykes, Drew Sawyer, Jas Sams, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal

Subgenre: Anthology

Synopsis: A group of thugs break into a house looking for a secretive VHS tape and get more than they bargained for.

Thoughts: Anthology movies are hit or miss; so are found footage movies; which makes V/H/S an ambitious venture to say the least. The premise is pretty great, with a group of miscreants breaking into a house and finding  stack of video tapes each showing some pretty crazy things.  Even though some of the videos didn’t make sense on VHS (really, who video-tapes a Skype conversation?), the idea is to scare the hell out of you, and V/H/S accomplishes that on more than one occasion.

The actors are all unknowns for the most part, and I didn’t really recognize any faces, but they came through in their roles.  I think it is a bit easier to be convincing in a found footage movie like this, but there was really only one person that I thought underperformed, and that was the boyfriend in “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.”  The guy seemed like he was readying from cue cards.  Other than that, there were some pretty great performances.

The Direction as a whole was well done too, with some being better than others.  The anthology premise makes it hard to critique the movie, but I did have my favorites.  I made it a point not to know who directed which segments going in because I did have my favorites.  Interestingly enough, my most anticipated director ending up delivering my least favorite segment.  I really enjoyed Ti West’s The Innkeepers and also enjoyed House of the Devil, but I found The Second Honeymoon to be pretty bland. Two of my favorites were 10/31/98 and Amateur Night.

V/H/S is far from perfect.  It took the initial story arc and Amateur Night a while to get going during the onset especially, but I thought that it delivered above average scares on more than one occasion.  I had heard some below average reviews going in, so I was pleasantly surprised with what I watched.  I suggest checking it out and judging for yourself.