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Therapy Review: You’re Better Off Taking Pills

By  · Published on August 5th, 2016

Therapy Leaves Viewers Worse Off Than When They Started

Fantasia Film Festival 2016

Let me start this review by saying it’s ridiculously cool for a teenager to not only write/direct a feature film but to get it into festivals. That’s an impressive feat, and for French teen Nathan Ambrosioni it’s actually a repeat effort after his debut film, Hostile – made when he was fourteen years old – played Fantasia in 2014. I was looking at my own sperm under a microscope when I was fifteen, so I recognize that these are serious, major accomplishments.

And nothing I’m about to say can take that away from him.

Ambrosioni’s sophomore effort, Therapy, is a slasher hybrid mixing found footage and traditional narrative, and it is ninety minutes of merde.

The film opens with a brief POV intro as someone records a trio of teens approaching an abandoned building with graffiti hijinks in mind, but within a few minutes two of them are dead and the third, a girl named Amanda, is bound and gagged. We then cut to a traditional film as Detectives Jane and Simon – no last names given – receive three cameras discovered in a house where blood has been found. Back at the station the evidence lab is working feverishly to process the footage for the cops to examine for clues.

This is where I point out that the cameras consist of a camcorder, a GoPro headset, and a Super8. Only the last of these requires any actual processing as the other two can be watched directly or via a USB cable.

This is also where I point out that the lab is editing the footage from all three cameras – including the killer’s! – into ten minute chunks in chronological order… complete with a score and sound cues to encourage jump scares.

The focus of the footage is a group of five people on a camping trip – Steven, his girlfriend Stephanie, his nephew Seb (played by Ambrosioni), and his nieces Sam and Olivia. (No, the fact that four of the five names – five out of seven if you count the detectives – begin with the letter ‘S’ has no meaning.) Seb is recording the trip, and despite screams in the distance and their car being vandalized the gang decides to spend the night anyway. More screams lead them to go exploring only to see them taunted and terrorized by a masked man and their own idiocy.

As with the similarly constructed The Levenger Tapes (a film that’s made only slightly better by the presence of competent actors) the format here involves found footage broken up by the cops watching a segment, reacting to it with additional plot development, and then more found footage. And yes, rather than fast forward to the relevant bits they watch in its entirety.

Every found footage sin is committed here from the aforementioned sound cues to the nonsensical act of continuing to record amid the chaos, and everyone here is a moron. Instead of running towards the very visible lights in the distance, one of them jumps into a bunker. Instead of Steven and Seb tackling the creep – again, armed only with an axe, a weapon that needs a big swing to be effective – they all run and scatter again and again. With one exception, none of them even pick up a weapon of their own from the floor strewn with glass, pipes, etc.

Action in the present is just as stupid as the cops leap to unsupported conclusions, fail to connect dots, and act every bit as inept as the teens. Jane’s backstory is teased involving an abusive ex-husband, but it seems included solely to “explain” why she’s such a fearful, emotional, shitty cop.

Ambrosioni makes an effort to craft a story involving more than just a masked killer, but each new detail just dumbs things down further. The reveals and twists are inane, the logic fails to hold up, and viewers are left with neither a compelling character nor an engaging story.

As I said earlier, the simple fact that Ambrosioni wrote and directed two features is immensely impressive. Maybe for his third film he can aim a bit higher than generic, direct-to-DVD garbage.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.