While it may have appeared some years earlier, having been a staple of home videos and amateur porn, the POV or “handheld” shot really came to prominence with The Blair Witch Project. Now, I’m not talking about the POV shot in its main artistic sense – that is, any angle showing the point of view of a character. Horror films are well known for their reliance on this technique to make it feels as though our young innocents are being watched. No, what I’m talking about is the camera equivalent of wearing a hat made of dog shit. The “look, this character is filming video and now you’re seeing what he is seeing!” To make it all the more realistic, they’ll add some title-safe lines and a blinking “REC” light and maybe make it grainy. Awesome bros!
Seriously, this shit is so done. I don’t need to see that ever again. Yes, it can work. Or maybe I should say, it did work. It doesn’t really anymore. Nine times out of ten it’s just bullshit. Blair Witch was fine and dandy. Cloverfield was surprisingly good. Obviously, REC/Quarantine did well. But most every other instance is just laziness. Laziness on the part of the director – just stick a camera in the actors hand and hey, there you go. Don’t need to think about it much. But you’re giving the editor the unenviable job of taking high quality footage from a $30,000 camera and downgrading it to make it look like it came off of someone’s cell phone. Great idea.
Some of you may remember the show Freakylinks, a kind of neat little horror mystery show that basically utilized the handy-cam format to make sure we never saw any of the monsters. Because that would be too awesome. My biggest gripe against Cloverfield? Never really got to see the monster enough as I wanted. Put yourself in the shoes of someone seeing a giant monster and holding a camera. Personally, I would aim my camera at the monster and get some sweet ass monster footage. But a character in a movie will instead run around frantically holding the camera at his hip or having it face backwards or film his friends cowering across the street.
Therein lies the problem. Or at least part of it. It’s pretty hard to tell an interesting story from a fixed POV like that. You want us to know the friends are cowering in fear, so you have to show it. But that doesn’t make sense. Our camera man can look over at them and see they’re cowering while filming the giant rampaging beast that is 100,000x more interesting than people.
While this technique is, thankfully, relatively rare theatrically, it still pops up in the home video and TV market. Even respectable shows will sometimes resort to this cheap tactic. House recently had an episode with Mos Def that, while it wasn’t the view from a camera, was shot POV for about 30 minutes. Yawn. And I love that show. I’m tired of cell phone footage and home video footage and whatever other dumb ideas people can come up with that somehow justify this POV experience. It’s garbage. This is entry level stuff for film students who haven’t figured out that tripods are awesome and for $15 you can make your own Steadicam rig (sort of). I don’t know about you, but if I see another damn POS POV bullshit camera shot take up more than 10 seconds, I’m going to film myself with a shitty cellphone then post the video on YouTube as proof positive I’m past my boiling point. (And if you believe I’d do that, I’m past my boiling point twice over).
What are some shows/movies in recent memory that bothered you with this technique? Do you hate it as much as I do?