Exceeds the lack of expectations
Directed by: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard.
*Spoilers ahead for those not interested in watching the movie*
This review is partially a summary of the events that occur in the film. Found footage has been around for a while. It was later made famous with The Blair Witch Project. After it died down, a newcomer titled Paranormal Activity took the horror genre by storm generation millions of dollars at impressively low budgets, creating a a new segment for film studios to target with various copies; some cheaper than others.
The last movie to capitalized on the found footage genre was Chernobyl Diaries, and we all know how poorly it turned out be. But, what about this new addition to the wall of found footage escapades? Does it have what it takes to compete with the Paranormal Activity franchise? You'd be surprised at how well it will perform.
This new horror movie has one main story arc, where three average guys get paid to record their own pornographic fun for money. One day, they get called by an anonymous individual to break into a house in the woods to retrieve a VHS tape. When they arrive, they find a dead man in a room full of box shaped TV's on static. One is left behind while the other two go looking for what they came for. Curiosity sinks in, and the person the left behind starts to watch the tapes, and an anthology of stories are presented to us.
As the first sub-arc, we follow three males planning to get drunk with hot women as a means to bring them back and have intercourse while the protagonist, and obvious virgin, is told to wear camcorder glasses. He records the entire night. He meets an odd looking girl who repetitively tells him that she "likes" him. They bring her along to a motel room. One of the guys fails to get action with the other girl they bring, and sets his eyes on the weird girl. It is later that they painfully/horrifically realize that what they brought to have fun with, is a vampiric succubus. This first found footage feature deserves the most recognition due to how perfectly calibrated the execution is planned and filmed. The makeup department that transforms the girl into a demon putting Wolverines CGI claws to shame.
The second sub-arc, which contains zero supernatural elements. A married couple visit a Western themed town to spend their second honeymoon. In their adventure, someone enters their motel room and records them in their sleep, steals the husbands money and leaves. The next day, the couple fights over the stolen money and put the argument to rest. The same night, the same mysterious person visits them, and stabs the husband in the neck. it is later revealed to be a woman, and a lover to the dead man's wife. They leave and are never heard from again. While this story doesn't provide the audience fear, it is meant to be a grounded tale that in the real world, there are genuinely sick people who do this for sport. Pray this never happens to you, and know who your're marrying.
At this point, the first person watching the previous two tapes disappears and the dead man gets up and sits back without anyone noticing. A second viewer stays in the room watching more of the tapes.
*Tuesday the 17th*
Going a la Friday the 13th, four college kids (two guys and two girls) go into the forest to stay at a cabin. One of the girls tricked them into being bait for a killer that once murdered her friends in the past. Over and over again she has brought groups of people as bait to one day kill the unknown assailant. We later discover that the killer in question is far more supernatural than she initially thought. She sets traps for him, and manages to get him, but realizes that he or more appropriately, it, finally kills her. It sort of pays homage to the slasher films like Jason and Michael Myers, but the killer is created to have a red face, so you never see his identity and teleports. Visually, and on VHS technology, it is yet another impressive execution, but not on the same level as the "Amateur Night" story arc.
*The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger*
Emily is being haunted in her apartment. She video chats with her boyfriend about strage phenomenon occurring where she lives. As the title says, it's a sick act towards the lead role of this story. What she sees in her apartment are child ghost apparitions and are very tangible. When she confronts them, she is knocked out. Her boyfriend is revealed to have been living in the next room to hers leading the audience to believe he was originally in another state. The sick twist, is that he works with the ghosts. It is quite confusing for what, but the so called "boyfriend" does the same thing to a new girl, over and over. I consider this story to be the weakest of them all, containing zero thrills, scares or a coherent plot.
Leading to the last tape, the second person viewing all these tapes disappears, and the leader of the team comes back to the room to realize they are no where to be found and the dead man is gone as well. He goes away only to find the dead bodies of the guys he came with and is later killed by the dead man they found, who seemed to be like another demon. After he's killed, the last video tape is played for us.
Four guys are getting ready for Halloween. They are invited to a party at a house. The house is deserted, only to find in the attic a group of older men performing some kind of exorcist on a girl. They four guys believe it to be part of the party they were promised, only to find out they walked in on a demon that starts killing all the men that held her captive. The house becomes clustered with arms popping out of the walls, doors being replaced by brick walls. You know, the Haunted Mansion type of story. When the boys make it out alive with the girl, their car stops and the girl they rescued appears outside the car and walks away, with a very sinister aura to her. It is later revealed that their car stopped in the middle of train tracks and they all meet an end when a train runs them over. The performances were top notch. I won't go out and say they are award winning, but believable enough that convinces the audience they are in great danger and scared out of their minds.
I believed this movie to end up like the last two failed attempts at the found footage genre. While it doesn't scare me into the corner of the room with a flashlight to protect me, it ends up being a creative production. Authentically looking like it was recorded to look like a VHS home movie, this is where the movie succeeds. The directors get creative, and the crew provides CGI and brings in quality makeup artists to deliver visual thrills and scares.
The makers prove to us that this style of filmmaking horror movies is far from being beaten to the ground. I originally dismissed it for saying it brought in some of the best directors in the business; people with a very poor track record asa whole. I'm neutral to the style, and I don't think movies should be done this way, but it's cheap and the studios like Paramount have made considerable money on them. The day will come when it will die out, until someone else picks up a cheap camera and try to call themselves filmmakers.
A surprisingly entertaining flick overall.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus