Blah, blah, blah, found footage movies suck.
Okay, now that that (far too frequently correct) generalization is out of the way let’s take a look at three new horror titles available this week on VOD. Yes, they’re all found footage films, but there’s a twist… only one of them sucks. Another is mediocre at best, and the third? Well it just might be one of the year’s best horror movies.
Hangar 10 follows a trio of friends who head into a British forest to investigate search for gold but get caught up in strange events that appear to echo a UFO sighting there 33 years prior. Exists follows a group of friends who head into an East Texas forest for some deep woods shenanigans but unintentionally piss off Bigfoot along the way. The Taking of Deborah Logan does not involve aliens, Bigfoot or the woods, but it does feature a harrowing look at the pain, loss and nightmare of Alzheimer’s. And it’s easily the most terrifying of the three.
The reality of Alzheimer’s sits at the core of The Taking of Deborah Logan as a PhD student (Michelle Ang) sets out to make her thesis film about an elderly woman diagnosed with the illness. Deborah (Jill Larson) is in the early stages of the disease, struggling with details big and small, and her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsay) is hoping the project can both help them financially and help others dealing with the disease down the road. The crew settles in to the house, installing cameras in the rooms and hallways and soon discovers Deborah’s case might be a bit different from the norm. Strange events are witnessed, and as Deborah’s behavior becomes increasingly violent Sarah and the others race to discover what could be causing her descent into ghostly madness.
Director Adam Robitel (who also co-wrote with Gavin Heffernan) handles the found footage aspect better than most of his contemporaries in several ways, but first among them is in the story’s setup and execution. We’re given valid reasons for the cameras’ existence, both wall-mounted and handheld, and we’re also given characters supported with depth and strong performances. The things we see make sense – we never question who’s holding the camera, why they’re shooting certain scenes, how we’re seeing the footage – and the only real ff-related issue becomes an over-reliance on the camera’s image quality. It cuts in and out at times, most notably in the third act, and it’s cheap.
But that’s a small price to pay for what the movie achieves. It’s exceedingly creepy thanks to sharp editing and imagery, and the topic adds to the overall unnerving nature of it all. Alzheimer’s is a devastating existence for the person afflicted and for their loved ones, and the film takes a surprisingly sincere look at it all while slowly letting the evil creep in along the way. Performances are universally good – another difference from most ff film – but Larson and Ramsay are real stand-outs for the blank terror and emotion they deliver. And even if none of the preceding was true, the final minutes also feature one hell of a terrifying WTF image that makes it worth a look.
The Taking of Deborah Logan is currently available on VOD and hits DVD this Tuesday.
It’s the weekend, and Brian, his brother and a few of their friends are heading out to his uncle’s cabin in the woods for some fun. The trip hits a bump in the road – both literally and figuratively – once they’re deep in the forest, and it’s not long before they realize something is in the woods with them. A large bipedal beast bearing a strong resemblance to a pissed-off Sasquatch has apparently targeted them for extinction. Good thing they brought along and set up seemingly dozens of cameras everywhere.
The past few years have seen a small sub-sub-genre pop up of Bigfoot-focused found footage films, but with the exception of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek they’ve been difficult to endure as viewers. While it still can’t reach those (relative) heights, Exists manages to deliver some high energy fun in the form of a monster movie. It’s not shy about its creature either as ten minutes in we’ve already seen Bigfoot three times. The big guy isn’t hiding from them or us, and it, along with the action, makes for a far more exciting Bigfoot adventure than we’ve seen previously.
But damn does this movie not need to be found footage. Director Eduardo Sánchez – who really should know better seeing as he helped start this ball rolling with The Blair Witch Project – uses the ff conceit but clearly couldn’t care less about the logistics of it all. Cameras are set up in odd places, helmet-cams are aimed at the characters for no reason other than to show the actors’ faces and the script is a big ole’ box of dumb. Why follow a road trying to escape the forest monster when you can go off trail into the… forest? Combine all of that with the score and opening credits (both rare for ff) and you have a movie that just doesn’t give a damn. It’s a shame too as the film’s momentum is a big and welcome departure from the ff norm. The practical creature effects are also solid, which is a good thing for as often as we see him, and the ending deserves some credit too for an unexpected choice.
Exists is currently available on VOD.
Strange occurrences were seen in the skies and on the ground of the UK’s Rendlesham Forest in 1980, and now over three decades later three friends head into the woods looking for gold. Armed with metal detectors and handheld cameras (of course) they soon find more than they bargained for when unidentified flying objects start appearing in the woods and skies around them. The mystery deepens when they come across an abandoned military base that maybe isn’t all that abandoned.
Hangar 10 features two fairly impressive money shots in its third act, but it is a slog getting there. The trio fight and bicker, they make incredibly poor decisions and they repeatedly film each other’s faces and reactions… while UFOs are flying overhead! Director Daniel Simpson delivers a good-looking film for the most part with the sky-based antics displaying an artistic and eye-catching appeal, but it’s not nearly enough of a reason to wade through the rest of this very generic sci-fi thriller.
Hangar 10 hits VOD this Friday.
Related Topics: Horror