At this point I have to believe that filmmakers planning to shoot found footage films pretty much never stop to ask themselves the simple question… why?
Fine fine, budgetary reasons. Sure sure, there’s an audience for it. But shouldn’t filmmakers maybe have a narrative reason for the format too? If the movie can be filmed more traditionally without any real change or impact on the story itself, then maybe it doesn’t need to be found footage. If your editing — complete with music cues — betrays the logic of your chosen format, then maybe it doesn’t need to be found footage. If you can’t explain in a single sentence how an audience is viewing your movie (under the guise of it being “real”), then maybe it doesn’t need to be found footage.
Inner Demons doesn’t need to be found footage.
Carson (Lara Vosburgh) is a teenage heroin addict. Once a model daughter who had memorized the bible front to back, she one day took a turn for the dark side as evidenced by her black clothing and gothic eyeliner. Heroin followed, and her distraught parents are hoping that a popular intervention-themed reality show will be her ticket back to God and their arms. The camera crew films her daily activities, documents the family’s intervention and then follows her into rehab. What should be a simple process of watching her move through withdrawal towards a drug-free life is hampered by her insistence that the reason she shootsheroin is because it’s the only thing that keeps the demon inside of her under control.
You can see where this is going already.
The unfortunate thing about the film’s poor handling of the found footage aspect (and ultimate tanking because of it) is that the actual story and its lead character are engaging and offer an interesting take on the subject matter. Addicts are no strangers to blaming outside sources for their dependencies, and putting a demonic face on the pull of the narcotics is an intriguing conflation of those two worlds. The doctor even tells Carson that she’s “using drugs to keep down that evil,” and it works for her reality and sets up the actual arrival of a demon that just won’t stay down.
But the decision by director Seth Grossman (a past producer on the TV series Intervention) and writer Glenn Gers to go the found footage route leads to the negation of anything resembling drama, character development, suspense or honest scares. To be clear, the format itself doesn’t eliminate those opportunities — see Rec or Afflicted or The Den for examples that do wonders with it — but it makes it easier for the filmmakers to rely on the cheap ploys and tricks inherent in found footage.
The opening onscreen text makes an effort at covering its ass by labeling the footage we’re about to witness as a mix of “rough cut and raw footage,” but what does that actually mean in the world of the film? Remember, found footage films by their very nature are meant to emulate film that’s been discovered/collected and presented. So who put this together for who to watch? Using its own logic means it wasn’t found as is in the woods or online. It was cobbled together by someone. Production info in place of credits means this isn’t meant to be a finished TV episode, so why is there music score/sound cues for intended scare scenes? Why is a reality show crew filming so much of themselves talking to each other about mundane nothings?
Inner Demons has a solid idea at its core, but the decision to focus efforts on the found footage angle leads to a complete dismantling of its initial value. The other potential snuffed out by the filmmaking choices is Vosburgh’s. Her performance is left to hint at the heart and dramatic intensity she might have brought to the film if she wasn’t instead relegated to being a prop for the camera.
The Upside: Lara Vosburgh; somewhat fresh setting
The Downside: Predictable and bland plot; found footage aspect is incredibly sloppy
On the Side: Seth Grossman also directed The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations. I guess what I’m saying is, there was more than one Butterfly Effect film?