Sunday, October 16, 2016

Boston TerrorThon 2016.02: Found Footage 3D

So, full disclosure - Scott Weinberg, one of the co-producers of this film who also has a small part playing himself, is probably a big part of why folks are reading this blog: He encouraged me when I was mainly posting movie reviews to the Home Theater Forum, was one of the Senior Editors at eFilmCritic/Hollywood Bitch-Slap when they started letting me contribute, and has been pretty cool on the occasions I've actually met him in person. So I've actually been kind of nervous ever since he started talking the film up after coming on board a few years ago, because my attempt to write at least a couple paragraphs about every single thing I see means that, if it turned out to be Not Very Good, I'd probably say so. I hate writing bad reviews for small independent films anyway, mostly trying to focus on what does work and how the folks involved can improve next time around, but not liking this one would suck.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case; it's a fun movie, surprisingly likable via its relatively understated character work and with a few very good scares. As a person who actually does like 3D (though not enough to shell out the cash to do a serious 3D upgrade for the TV yet), I liked the way they used it,exaggerated, but it a way that emphasized how the characters were kind of amateurs.

Kind of frustrated with the actual screening, though - it was originally scheduled for the first day of the "TerrorThon" (which is something between a rep program and a festival, seemingly a joint production between the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Somerville Theatre). I actually worked from home on Thursday so that I could walk to the Somerville Theatre for the 5pm screening of Bad Blood: The Movie... I get there and it's off, as is the 9:45pm screening of this. The 7pm show, The Master Cleanse, is something I've already seen. Well, okay, I've got laundry to do, and Found Footage 3D will be shown the next night.

I get there at 7pm, figuring I'll do a triple feature of Egomaniac, Attack of the Lederhosenzombies, and FF3D (which has been given a tough 10:45pm slot). Egomaniac is off, replaced with The Master Cleanse, which I'd recommend to most, but having already seen it, I'm not sure about dropping $15 to see it again. So, back to the apartment, and at that point I decide, you know what, I won't bother with Attack of the Lederhosenzombies, because why should I believe that this will go off fine and not just have technical problems rear their ugly head at the last moment? That's what happens when a festival/event doesn't have their stuff together - they don't just lose money from the actual shows missed, but the ones people don't bother with because of lack of faith.

Found Footage 3D

* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 October 2016 in Somerville Theatre #5 (Boston TerrorThon, RealD 3D DCP)

Half the joke with Found Footage 3D is that if one half of the title doesn't represent what you think is wrong with horror movies today, the other probably does, and combining them should make a film that pleases nobody. Of course, doing so indicates a self-aware spoof, which is kind of another thing horror doesn't need more of, and while this may all seem to indicate that pulling it all together is a bad, inherently doomed idea, it's also opportunity for a clever filmmaker to pull what works from all of this together into a fun project that pulls what works from each of those elements.

It presents itself as the behind-the-scenes material shot during the making of Spectre of Death, conceived as a found-footage horror movie written by and starring Derek (Carter Roy) and Amy (Alena von Stroheim) as a couple whose marriage was already on the brink of collapse before they went on vacation in a creepy old cabin that the locals tell them to avoid... And whose marriage collapsed in between raising the crowdfunding money and going to shoot in a creepy old cabin that the locals tell them to avoid. But the show must go on, so to the woods they go, along with Andrew (Tom Saporito), the director that Derek sprang the 3D cameras on at the last minute; Carl the sound guy (Scott Allen Perry); Lily (Jessica Perrin), the cute production assistant without any experience Derek found at a party; and Mark (Chris O'Brien), Derek's brother who is shooting a making-of thing and is quite happy to see Amy again.

Though the description is full of red flags that this movie may be too much about itself and similar movies that don't necessarily bear that much examination, one of the first things that grabs the audience is how quickly it sketches out characters who are worth the audience's interest. They're a simple group, to be sure, but they're quickly established as more than just their jobs and obvious functions in the story. Some of it is paying against type, making Andrew kind of ineffectual as the director when that guy would normally be trying to dominate every scene. Sometimes it's how, even though Mark is holding the camera, you can tell that both he and Amy perk up a bit when she sees him. And if Lily is the cute young thing that Derek is trying to rub in Amy's face, that's never the first thing she is to the audience. It's an unusually well-balanced ensemble without a weak link in the cast.

Full review on EFC.

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