Tagged V/H/S 2

Area 51: Oren Peli’s Extraterrestrial Blunder

Area 51. 2015. Directed by Oren Peli. Screenplay by Christopher Denham & Oren Peli.
Starring Reid Warner, Darrin Bragg, Ben Rovner, Jelena Nik, Roy Abramsohn, Frank Novak, and Glenn Campbell. Aramid Entertainment Fund/Blumhouse Productions/IM Global/Incentive Filmed Entertainment/Room 101.
Rated R. 91 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller


★★
medium_71e0d124fd41c0aee70ba256dd60cd00-areaRight back to the supposed McPherson Tape, later given a bigger budget and made as Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, there have been plenty of found footage films dealing with alien encounters. We’ve also got Jason Eisner’s segment from V/H/S 2, the 2014 film Alien Abduction, then there’s Apollo 18 with a bit of pseudo-revisionist history. There are more, but I won’t ramble on into the night about every last one.
Area 51 is not necessarily the same as the others. Right from the beginning, not many films involve the actual infiltration, or attempted infiltration, of Area 51. There are some, but not a great many. Plenty of mentions, though, in film and television about Roswell, New Mexico, Area 51, and areas around Nevada. In some respects, Oren Peli’s latest film is much different than anything else. At other times there’s nothing different at all. Mixed bag mostly.
Peli is someone I’ve enjoyed far more as a producer than director. His two films as director, Area 51 and Paranormal Activity, aren’t that much different than one another except for the fact they’re completely different settings. Mostly I like that he produced the three Insidious movies, The Lords of Salem, as well as both Chernobyl Diaries and The Bay of which I’m a fan despite what others might think of them. With this film – originally completed around 2009 or so and unreleased until 2015 – Peli doesn’t do much else other than try to show new ways of incorporating found footage, techniques which aren’t necessarily fresh or innovative but above all else just fun to look at.
area-51Three friends – Reid (Reid Warner), Darren (Darrin Bragg), and Ben (Ben Rovner) – head to a huge a party. There, Darren and Ben lose track of Reid briefly. They see him staring into the sky. Later, they find him again in the road – quiet, but fine.
Three months later, Reid has planned a trip for them: to Vegas. Or, more so Area 51.
Once on their journey, they meet with Jelena (Jelena Nik) whose father worked in the base for a time before getting fired for prodding into things too far; he later committed suicide. The four head out to try and make it onto the legendary base.
However, once they arrive and start to move further and further inside, they come to understand perhaps it’s better off the American Government keeps their findings under wraps.
area-51-greenAn aspect of Area 51 I really did enjoy was the plot of how they managed to snag the old guy’s ID and the bottle of his cologne in case they required any fingerprints. That was pretty slick! While I think once inside there’s a lot of lapse of judgement on the part of the writing, in turn affecting the characters, much of what I liked about the movie was its build-up and the first half where it’s almost more like a thriller than anything. We’ve seen plenty of this type of stuff in other movies, I dig that Peli injects the found footage into something with which we’re familiar.
Another extremely fun part were the effects. I think, despite of how mediocre I found its scares, Peli’s Paranormal Activity at the least introduced the movie industry to new aspects found footage could carry: such as special effects. In this film, Peli takes that on to different levels. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Once Darren, Jelena, and Reid enter the Area 51 facility, there are a host of interesting effects the movie introduces. The alien technology this trio comes across is impressive. I totally loved the small, smooth craft Reid gets into; from the outside it’s almost a big oval, an egg-like structure, inside Reid is soundproofed yet the whole ship is transparent. Honestly, regardless whether you like the movie overall or not, I can’t see how you wouldn’t enjoy these moments. Seeing special effects with the found footage done well, such as they are in this case, is a treat for me because it isn’t often we get to see that in other movies.
vlcsnap-2015-05-15-08h55m14s100 vlcsnap-2015-05-15-08h55m27s217There’s a genuine creepshow of a sequence after Jelena and Reid end up in a tunnel system underneath the Area 51 facility itself. In these few scenes, Peli brings us back to straight horror filmmaking. Not in a bad sense. There’s the obligatory slow shots of the camera, light shining, moving through the darkness, but a sense of real tension is happening. I’d honestly expected, after Darren has a quick run-in with the facility security, the finale of the film was going to be an extremely big, loud chase sequence, and the effects would come fast, barely noticeable, and the film would go out on a bang. Instead, the screenplay slows things down in pace for awhile. We get these very quiet bits before the REAL chase gets on. Then we switch back to see how Darren is doing, there we get the big chase, the loud sound design, alarms, and so on. Not a bad thing, however, I thought Peli might’ve done well to keep with the subtlety through to the end and create a more effective scare for the audience. Sadly, what was built up loses its steam with a big shift between Darren/Jelena and Reid. Peli should’ve left Darren and his situation unknown, it’d be more unsettling that way instead of spelling ever last thing out visually for us. Keeping with Jelena and Reid could have created an insanely tight tension that would not let up until the finish. It still has suspense and it keeps you on edge, no doubt there, but I don’t think it reached what it could have been with more focus.
That being said, I found the final ten minutes – in regards to scenes involving Jelena and Reid – pretty damn spectacular at times. SPOILERS AHEAD! When the two of them appear to abducted there’s an amazing scene/series of shots, as they’re sort of lifted up inside this white space, no gravity, and the camera gets sucked out of a tube only to fall down to the ground. BONUS – if you watch until after the credits, which you should as respect to all the various artists who work on a film (not to be a dick but I have many friends in the industry + I’m an aspiring screenwriter so it’s always nice to spend an extra couple minutes watching them), there is a POST-CREDITS SCENE. Pretty nice little add-on.
Only for the fact that this scene may negate the found footage aspect. An old man – the same one poking around the group’s vehicle earlier in the film – finds the camera Reid dropped in his abduction, or whatever you’d like to officially call it. So my only beef is: how did the footage get “found” then? It seemed to me like this old guy was a part of the conspiracy, in some way. Perhaps I’m wrong and he was another intrigued mind, maybe the reality is he came across the tape while trying to find his own evidence of some sort. Then it’s VERY clear how the footage made it out. So I can’t knock Peli for this last bit, as I’m not sure how exactly it was intended to play off. I’d like to believe the old man was another person prodding around for tangible proof of Area 51 and its contents, just as Reid and his friends; the knocking on their door in that one scene would then be seen as him probably warning them, attempting to steer them off a course of danger.
vlcsnap-2015-05-15-08h55m56s2 area51-quepasaI don’t think Area 51 is anything special, but it’s also not as terrible as some seem to be making it out to be, as if there aren’t worse instances of both aliens/Area 51 and found footage out there (which there most certainly are).
Overall, it’s about a 2 out of 5 star film. The build-up is marred by too much jumping back and forth in the finale. Oren Peli instead tries to lean hard on the exposition, spelling out the fate of each and every character perfectly without leaving any sort of room for imagination. This isn’t always bad – you don’t have to NOT answer questions to be a good film. But Peli is too heavy handed, and any of the mystery he’d cultivated throughout the first three quarters of Area 51 disappears over the closing fifteen minutes. There are a few great scenes, honestly, from scares to interesting uses of the found footage sub-genre. The acting isn’t awful, but it’s by no means anything to write home about. Especially in the finale of the film, all the emotions and intensity of those scenes could’ve come off WAY BETTER if the actors pulled their weight, or in turn if the actors were replaced with better actors.
I’m not even that big on Paranormal Activity, other than the fact it was slightly innovative for found footage, but I’d absolutely recommend seeing that one over this directorial effort from Peli. See this if you’re looking to burn off an hour and a half. Plus, you might enjoy a few of the special effects the way I did. Who knows; stranger things have happened.

MACABRE is Brutal & Fun & Wears Hooper on its Sleeve

Macabre. 2009. Directed and Written by Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto (as The Mo Brothers). Starring Shareefa Daanish, Julie Estelle, Arifin Putra, Sigi Wimala, and Ario Bayu.
Gorylah Pictures.
Unrated. 95 minutes.
Horror

★★★★1427170192-98-o

Only discovering Timo Tjahjanto through V/H/S 2 and The ABCs of Death, as well as the fabulously deranged recent outing Killers, I was pleased to be able to finally watch his and Kimo Stamboel’s Macabre. Together, they are The Mo Brothers, and they are vicious. That’s for sure.
What I really liked about Macabre is how it shows audiences in the Western world that people from other countries, other continents, do enjoy good ole gory horror like us Canadians and the Americans down below. Not to say it’s an average film because I really think it’s a fine piece of horror, but I think often hardcore horror movies like this with the setup of a family in a lonely house, all of them homicidal, seems to be pegged as an American style. It isn’t, and The Mo Brothers show us all how it’s meant to be done.

The setup for Macabre is nothing innovative or overly new – a young group of six friends are on a big road trip when they come across a girl named Maya from out of nowhere. She says she has been mugged, and so the group of friends help her; they take Maya to her house, which is coincidentally and conveniently enough for The Mo Brothers, deep in the woods. On arrival the friends meet Maya’s very grand mother, Dara, who is both beautiful and mysterious. Once there Dara is grateful they were able to help Maya, and so the group eats dinner with the family. From then on the once happy road trip becomes bloody murder, literally, and the friends discover what lurks in the quiet house is beyond nightmares and full of death.
Macabre-1I enjoyed that the group of friends were young, but not so young this was a sort of teen slasher. This could have easily followed too much of a formula. As I said, this doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, however, it could’ve really fallen into some traps had it tried to fill the film up with beautiful-looking teens like Hollywood and Western films so often do. Instead Macabre is very frightening because the characters are real, they feel normal and not character types being marketed. Perhaps that’s part of the benefit of The Mo Brothers making this film in Indonesia, they didn’t make it within that Hollywood style system.
Of course there are plenty critics who’ve decided Macabre is derivative of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and other similarly styled films, most of which all owe to TCM. I don’t think this is derivative. I believe The Mo Brothers know their influences, and they pay homage within a certain context. Outside of a few things there is enough in Macabre for it to stand on its own and not be lumped in as a copy of something else. For instance, just some of the scenes and how they were filmed are great, like the first moment we see the chainsaw – not only is it wildly gory and brutal, there are neat shots from the chainsaw’s perspective, and the way The Mo Brothers have really elegant, beautiful music playing over top instead of actually hearing all the blood gushing and the bone crunching and people crying in the next room… it’s just… perfect. Sure, we’ve seen that cannibal angle before, and certainly TCM did a fine job of really putting the whole “cannibal family in the backwoods” genre into perpetual motion for the rest of film history, but whatever – it works. I can’t knock this film for using these supposed tired cliches because for Macabre those things work.
macabre-2009-19338-156041570For one thing, the acting is pretty good in this movie. There are several scenes where people are crying, yelling, screaming in pain. There are also highly intense pieces, especially those involving Dara later on, which showcase the chops of the actors. I really enjoyed the character of Ladya (Julie Estelle) and I thought she was played very personably, not reacting/acting the way typical female roles are written in the majority of horror films whether American or otherwise. I can’t not mention Dara, played excellently by Shareefa Daanish, because it would be insane – she may seem like that typical ‘head of the family of cannibals’ we see in these types of movies, but she is much more, and there’s some eerie quality about her that lingers, maybe it’s in her eyes. Either way, Daanish is a revelation here and keeps much of the horror on that razor’s edge where it can be horrifying and so immersive at the same time. All the roles are well performed, but Estelle and Daanish particularly really draw out the emotional intensity of the film and take it out of the realm of a lot of films that truly are trying to knock off The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
macabreAnother thing I enjoyed about Macabre is how it doesn’t come at you glossy and perfect and shiny. Instead, there is real grit to its look, and I think this has a part in its overall effect on me. The reason so many modern horrors, specifically American-made horror films, are not up to par is due to the fact they look way too glossed over, as if the whole film print had been slicked down with oil. Even when those movies are trying hard to look gritty they still end up coming out like shiny little diamonds. I mean, the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came off like a big budget fashion commercial with Jessica Biel running around with her pants hanging at her ass cheeks, and all the forced-looking dirt and grime; it wasn’t all terrible, but lord, was it rough. That’s where a film like Macabre keeps it snout out in front of the race, because it doesn’t sacrifice atmosphere and tone for the sake of looking like it has a ton of money behind it. Not that the movie looks cheap, either. Not saying it does, I think it looks great. There’s just a nice gritty quality to the film which keeps it from coming out like a Michael Bay remake special.
macabre-photo5Ultimately I have to say this is a 4 out of 5 horror in my eyes. There’s enough to satisfy a lot of areas for horror fans. There is a ton of gore, some style, that grit, and the actors all hold up their ends of the collective bargain. The Mo Brothers are a great team. Having seen the recent Killers, I can confidently say these guys are on top of my list of awesome horror directors I’ll continue to watch in the future. They have that hardcore sensibility while still retaining the good qualities many horror filmmakers lack – the ability to write decent characters/dialogue for them to speak, the ability to create atmosphere and sustain tension, among other things. Plus, I like the final 25 minutes of Macabre so much because it is real damn creepy and the gore, quite literally, explodes + SPOILER AHEAD: one moment when a man in the house finds a picture of Dara from the 1800s is just awesomely nasty, in so many ways. Great, great stuff to finish things off on in a finale that is as outrageous as it is fun.
If you aren’t into subtitles, you’ll miss out. I’m not a snob – I understand some people just don’t process as fast as others, and therefore really get no enjoyment out of trying to both watch and read at the same time. There are some out there who get their nose up and act like “well if you can’t watch a subtitled film you’re not cultured”, but that’s rubbish. My girlfriend loves a lot of great movies, and she does enjoy reading books, but it isn’t her cup of tea to watch a movie and have to read the dialogue; for her, watching a film is good enough visually. That being said, she caves and watches foreign films with me, and enjoys them. But I get that certain horror fans aren’t all that into subtitles – what I say is, throw that out the window, at least for Macabre. It’s worth the time because it’s one of the best gory horrors I’ve seen in the past few years. Might not change the industry, but Macabre is solid frightening horror with a good dose of sanguine streams to satisfy all the gorehounds out there, too.

V/H/S: Viral is a Weird, Wild Ride

V/H/S: Viral. 2014. Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, and Nacho Vigalondo (the Blu ray release will include the segment “Gorgeous Vortex” directed by Todd Lincoln).
Starring Emmy Argo, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Justin Welborn, Amanda Baker, Gregg Bishop, Nick Blanco, Dan Caudill, Stephen Caudill.
Magnet Releasing.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★

Click on the titles for my previous reviews on the Blu ray releases for V/H/S V/H/S/2.VHS-VIRAL_FINISH-27x40_halfsize-691x1024So apparently a few people, for some reason, can’t get why I’ve given this movie such a high rating. I’ll attempt to explain it even further than I already have just in case any anonymous people once again have problems reading my review.

This is probably the most misunderstood and maligned entry in the V/H/S series. I never judge a movie by its rating online, or anywhere for that matter, but IMDB for instance has this somewhere around a 4 out of 10 star rating (IMDB, unfortunately, is mostly only great for finding titles/actors/et cetera – the ratings are ridiculous on there). I think that is such a nonsense rating. This is a worthy entry in the series, and it’s also a good, innovative horror movie. People don’t see it right now.  I get that – or no, no – I don’t get it, actually. I really don’t understand because I think this is the film where the whole concept of the V/H/S series comes to life, full steam blowing ahead.
I think it’s misunderstood simply because I don’t know why people prefer the other V/H/S films over this one. I love them all, but this installment has the most unique segments, and it’s definitely the most exciting in terms of energy; I never felt any sort of lag in this movie.

But who am I?  Just a lowly cinephile in a horde of horror fans.

The wraparound segment in V/H/S: Viral is definitely an interesting one. I wasn’t sure on the first viewing if I really dug it or not; things felt very chaotic and I wasn’t sure if it worked. Then, once I went back and watched this once or twice more, I started to really get into the whole segment (its official name is “Vicious Circles”) because it sets up the whole viral angle from the title; not only the main character’s intentions of being “a part of something bigger” than himself, but also just in how the videos come to is, as if transmitting around through cell phones wireless by way of this strange ice cream truck that’s rampaging through the streets on the run from authorities. It felt weird on the first watch, but second time around I started to really pay attention more, and I thought it worked very well to setup the whole film’s theme.

There are some real brutal moments in this segment, as well. Particularly, I really loved the scene where one kid is being dragged along from the back of the ice cream truck – his feet are flailing around awhile until finally they start scraping wildly along the pavement, and the sound is just disgustingly great, becoming only flying flecks of blood and bone. It’s one of the few moments in any film where I’ve literally cringed because of how it made me feel. A painful-looking moment. Loved it.
Vhs-Viral-Dante-640x360The first short directed by Gregg Bishop is called “Dante the Great”.  It centers around a magician, Dante (Welborn), who came into possession of a mysterious cloak (one formerly owned – apparently – by the great Harry Houdini but got sold because it frightened him). The cloak allowed him to do crazy, normally unattainable feats. But soon, it’s obvious there is something sinister driving the cloak and behind all its magic. Eventually, Dante kills people in pursuit of being the ultimate magician. I won’t say any more – you need to see this for yourself!

I really loved this segment. It’s my second favourite of the lot. The story itself is just really innovative in terms of horror – there aren’t too many horror movies out there (though a couple of questionable quality do exist) dealing with magicians. Why is it innovative? First off, “innovation” is defined as being “something new or different introduced”. So for starters, I began with saying there aren’t too many magician-themed horror movies. A user on IMBD had a particular problem with my review, which is fine. However, he commented that nobody wants to see a horror movie about magic “because it sucks and no one wants to see that *beep*” – I guess if that’s considered an explanation, then sure. For some of us, “Dante the Great” was unique in that a horror story about a magician is rarely done & I don’t think we’ve ever seen a found footage film about magic – correct me if I’m wrong. If this is the first magic-themed found footage movie then that alone is fairly innovative. It didn’t suck for me in any way. In a sea of horror movies, there are so many fast-forward-worthy films; the ones you just want to skip over until they’re done. For me, V/H/S: Viral had none of those moments. If it did for you, that sucks.  “Dante the Great” in particular is one of the better offerings in this installment.
I really dig this one. Bishop really uses the camera in some interesting and fun ways. A lot of people seem to get their brain in a twist over “who has the camera” and such things – but by using a magician and a supernatural-type cloak as the center of the plot, Bishop is able to not worry about all those little things. Because it’s about the magic! Dante can do anything. He proves this time and time again. Some of the scenes involving the police, specifically when they cuff Dante and put him in the back of the car, are just absolute perfection. The plot is great enough, but just the visual effects and the camerawork alone are worth the price of admission here. Really impressed by Bishop here, and hope to see some more fresh work from him in the near future.
VHS-Viral-photo-01Right off the bat, I absolutely love Nacho Vigalondo’s filmmaking. He is a special voice in a sea of horror films. Of course he loves time travel, so it’s no surprise his segment “Parallel Monsters” draws on elements of time travel, alternate universes (et cetera) to help him craft an expertly creepy, odd, and at times weirdly funny horror short. This one is about a guy who has built some sort of machine which allows him to essentially open a door and look into an alternate universe; through the door, he sees himself. We begin here as the man decides to finally switch places with the alternate version of himself on the other side. They agree to meet back there and switch over once more at a certain time. However, things get very weird for the man when he discovers the alternate universe into which he’d been peering is not at all what it seems. On the surface, at first it seems a little sexy, but slowly it devolves into the man’s discovery of a terrifying universe where nothing is sexy – and everything, especially sex, is awfully scary.
Vigalondo really knocks it out of the park with this one. I don’t know where he came up with this, but that man’s brain is genius – when he passes away, hopefully at a very old age, we should take that brain and preserve it, let future filmmakers study it/him. I can’t get over this segment. I really love, and own a copy of, his film Timecrimes. He does such an amazing job with the concept of time travel, et cetera. I don’t know if it’s just something he’s always been interested in, or it’s a concept he got into because it lent itself to very interesting horror movies – whatever the reason, I’m glad he loves it. When we finally get a look at some of the ‘people’ in this alternate universe, after they appear in their true forms, it is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. Honestly. I was horrified. Once again, apparently this makes me crazy. I’m 30-years old, I’ve seen over 4,000 films, but because I’m terribly creeped out by something another person finds subjectively unscary I must be 12. OH – I’m sorry – have you been to the alternate universe where people have glowing faces, women’s vaginas are huge claw-like traps, and dicks are dripping, hair werewolf arms? Well, I apologize. The rest of us were disturbed by this. We’ve not yet been granted the ability to cross over into other universes and experience what life is like for the people there. Guess I’ll have to book a trip before watching any of Vigalondo’s movies from now on.

This segment is the best one in this film. It’s also the best segment overall in any of the V/H/S movies so far (I hope they continue to make more) – without any doubt. Anybody who disagrees? That’s fine. I love when people have differing opinions. I just agree to disagree. Even if they make another great V/H/S movie I doubt I’ll have a new favourite. “Parallel Monsters” is just so creepy, and a lot of fun.
VHS-Viral-Trailer-600x337The next segment is “Bonestorm” directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, of whom I’m a fan (they did the excellent modern horror Resolution and the fantastic Spring). I enjoyed this one mostly because of nostalgia – I spent a lot of my teen years beating around the streets in my town skateboarding with my friends although that was in the late 90s and we mainly just had actual cameras. I actually still have some of the snapshots I took of my buddies and I doing lame tricks. Loved that stuff. “Bonestorm” is basically just the story of some skateboard kids, one who of course has a gun (maybe a little gun commentary on America in there?  I don’t know but it works!), who end up going into Mexican cult territory just across the border where they encounter some very scary people. This ends up in an all out blood bath where the young skateboard kids, the two who aren’t immediately killed, fight for their lives against a creepy group of cult-like worshippers (whose blood boils and catches fire, et cetera). It’s pretty wild.

I liked this segment, but it wasn’t all perfect. Though a lot of the young kids’ dialogue worked because they were young, some of it felt so forced and awkward. I wasn’t totally put off. Some of what they said was awesome, especially once the big fight starts going down. I loved how one kid went and switched on their music – says so much about our culture nowadays, and more so the younger kid – can’t even murder a bunch of weird skeleton people without putting on some tunes.
On the surface, “Bonestorm” sort of looks to be a real big excuse for blood and guts without much to it, but it’s more than that. First, we get a natural reason for the cameras, which sometimes is often an aspect fumbled in found footage; with the kids being skateboarders, especially in modern day, it’s only normal at least one of them has a GoPro or some type of recording equipment. I mean, one of them has a gun – not hard to believe they’d also have access to cameras. Second, I found it to be a good subversion of what we often see in horror – the monsters, or the villains (whatever they happen to be), don’t just rise up and obliterate everything, or at least not in total dominance. Instead of turning and running, the skateboard kids fight back. One even switches on their music, so they’ll have something to fight to – a soundtrack. Benson and Moorehead could’ve simply stuck with the kids running away, trying to escape all this scary stuff going on. Instead, they turn and fight. One of them sort of goes mental, which was hilarious. But it’s the end that caps it all off.
I thought the end of this segment was really awesome. Some people think it ripped off “Safe Haven” from the previous film, however, I think it went well with the whole cult vibe going on, and maybe it was more so meant as an homage. I don’t think, other than one part of the end, this resembled Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto’s short from V/H/S/2. It fit well here for me because just as the two skateboarders think they’ve really kicked some ass and driven all those skeletal cult members into the ground, this (I don’t want to ruin anything so I’m keeping it vague) “thing” appears. Very cool.
Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-12.49.48-PM-620x400This is absolutely my favourite of the three V/H/S films. I can say that in absolute confidence. Not only are the ideas big, they are well-executed. I don’t know why I’ve seen some of the complains about this entry into the series that I have, granted some of that is mostly banter I see around the internet. I think all three of the shorts are great. The wraparound segment is pretty good, but there are also some parts I didn’t like a whole lot. I wasn’t a big fan of the moment in “Vicious Circles” where we land with the Latino gangsters – not that I have anything against the Latino gangsters, I just felt it sort of went too stereotypical, and also made them look really bad (misogynistic and very trash all around). It just didn’t flow with the rest of the wraparound. They should have tried to include less switching from camera to camera stuff, which is why they put this portion in, but it just comes off as too much; trying to cram all these bits into one. They might as well have just went ahead and included Todd Lincoln’s segment anyways, and cut some of the fat off those spots.

Regardless, I think V/H/S: Viral is easily the best in all aspects of the three films, so far, in this horror anthology series. I know I’m in the small minority, but usually I am when it comes to underrated films, or at least films I see as underrated. I think the ideas in the shorts themselves, mainly “Parallel Monsters” and “Dante the Great”, are so unique. That’s what a series like V/H/S needs if they want it to continue to have any sort of longevity. Otherwise, people will really bore with the whole concept. To me, it seems like a lot already are tired by it, but I think this is going to see better life on Blu ray, et cetera. Once people give the three films more time to sink in (it feels to me like they were almost rushed out in succession though I really love the series anyways), I really believe it’s going to hit people differently. I already love them. However, sometimes you have to give the general public awhile to digest certain movies. Maybe this will be one of them.
Right now, I suggest you watch it. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And either way, hit me up – we’ll discuss. Don’t just talk shit on the message boards. Don’t just say “the movie sucks” & half-quote what I’ve said trying to make your case. If you think it’s bad, share your thoughts – tell me! I know I’m in the minority, but that being said don’t expect me to give your opinions any type of equal weight in consideration if you can’t sensibly and sociably discuss a film. That’s what movies are all about.

Found Footage – 15 Films Worth Watching

The found footage sub-genre can be one of division. Some people like certain found footage films. Others don’t like the entire category, can’t stand it. I’m one of those who likes the genre. A lot. But only if it’s used to an advantage, if it works well. Sometimes the concept just falls flat on its face. On the other hand, when a competent director gets ahold of a story and uses found footage correctly it can really be a treat. One thing worth noting is that a lot of times the actors involved end up shooting parts of the film. In the case of Blair Witch for instance a great deal of the footage (I can’t speculate how much but I’m sure near all of it) was caught on film by the actors themselves. Whatever the case may be, however it comes together, found footage in the right hands is a great sub-genre for filmmakers to use, and more often than not it can be frightening as hell.

Here are 15 of my personal favourite found footage films. Most of which I would consider to be the horror genre. And these are in descending order towards my favourite of them all.

15. The Collingswood Story (2002)
600full-the-collingswood-story-coverThis is one of the lesser-seen on this list, no doubt. If only because it hasn’t been widely available on DVD, and as far as I know it isn’t on Netflix. I was lucky enough to see it a couple years ago. Mostly, to be honest, it can be boring, but for me it’s all about the payoff. If I can make it through to the end of a film (check my mention of Soft for Digging in previous post) I find a little less than exciting and the finale blows me away, I will always be impressed. This is one of those films which doesn’t have a lot going on. It’s the last 10 or so minutes that really change the game. A creepy story involving a weird house, typical. However, this film really uses found footage well as a concept, and I think that also gives this a spot on the list.

14. The Houses October Built (2014)
The Houses October Built MovieFor a full review, click here.

I’ve never seen the documentary of the same name (also directed by Bobby Roe). This movie terrifies me. The concept is simple: a group of friends seek out the most extreme scare, to find where the wildest haunted houses across America are located. Of course they get what they’re looking for, just not exactly how they expected to find it. One thing I really loved about this flick is that the acting seemed so natural. A lot of found footage films come off as forced. These people seemed like they were very familiar with one another. Certainly they probably are, as they all appeared in the documentary The Houses October Built together. So there must have been an advantage due to that. Either way, I thought that really helped when it comes to character development. It felt like I was watching a group of friends who’d known each other a long time, made me really invest in them. When the terror really hits it can get very creepy. At one point, you’ll know it, Brandy (essentially Brandy Schaefer playing herself) is slowly figuring out she may now be alone, without her friends to protect her, and it is an extremely chilling moment. Got to me. I highly recommend this one. It’s especially great when Halloween comes around again.

13. Afflicted (2013)afflicted-featuredFor my full review, click here.

This one came out of nowhere. Another film that really capitalizes on real life friendships. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse play themselves here pretty much. In the film, they’re taking a massive trip around the world, documenting everything on camera. However, the reason for doing so is because Derek has found out he’s got a serious disease, and it could very well take his life. So, all the more reason to do the trip of a lifetime with his friend Clif. While overseas though, Derek encounters a mysterious woman, and afterwards he seems to be changing. Into what, who knows. I really, really enjoyed this to the fullest. I won’t spoil this at all by telling you what Derek is turning into because it’s best left to slowly figure out. Not that it’s difficult. But it’s just worth discovering on your own. The realization setting in almost puts you in Derek’s shoes. All in all I think this is a good use of found footage, and really imaginative story with some well-done effects to boot.

12. The Conspiracy (2012)640px-Poster_for_The_Conspiracy_(2012_Film)For my full review, click here.

One of my favourite things about scary movies is that some of them can be terrifying without really being what you’d call a ‘horror’ movie. One in particular, when concerning found footage, is The Conspiracy. I for one love the whole Bilderberg conspiracy theory/theories. Not that I necessarily buy into it all, or dismiss it all either, but I just love it- so much excitement in those conspiracy theories, and the theorists themselves. This film plays off all that. A couple filmmakers are doing a documentary on conspiracy theories, but it gets very dangerous, very real once they discover links here and there to a secret society that has been around for years. This movie mixes Bilderberg and Bohemian Grove stories together, and it really works. The finale is something to be seen. I found it all fairly scary. It’s not a horror, but it will definitely get to you in ways most horrors will. My interest in conspiracy/all related matters is most likely the reason this one is on the list. Really made this film work for me.

11. Exists (2014)exists_06There is nothing like a good creature feature. Essentially, Exists is a creature feature, but it’s dressed up like a found footage film. This works. Combining the real life typical plot of going into the woods up to a cabin with some friends and a really great looking sasquatch costume design, this film packs a punch. At times I was absolutely frightened to death. Bigfoot looks amazing. You don’t really get a great look at the creature most of the time; at first it’s a lot of quick, blurred images, slowly some more defined shots. Finally it all culminates near the finale when one of the characters comes literally face-to-face with the sasquatch. And is it ever wild. They did a great job making him look man-like yet still scarily ape, massive, and horrifying. I loved this. Worked really well.

10. The Last Horror Movie (2003)

For a full review, click here.
045072H3-1Everyone knows the classic mockumentary Man Bites Dog, and it is a doozy. Well this is my choice for the “serial killer makes a movie”-type plot. The Last Horror Movie is a frighteningly real depiction of a serial killer who decides he ought to make a true movie. He documents gruesome, horrific murders. There’s nothing much more to it. Though he does offer some psychotic ramblings to go along, it’s all mainly about the murders. Man, are they rough. There’s one in particular I actually cringe while watching (something which rarely happens nowadays as I’ve become almost desensitized on some levels) where he lights a person on fire and lets them burn. Very, very disturbing. Although I do recommend this one. It starts off as a VHS tape rented from the local video store; another little bit I really enjoy. Adds some character. So if you want some really depraved stuff, then go ahead, watch this one. It will bite on your nerves.

9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
the-blair-witch-projectFor a full review, click here.

Everyone knows this one. I don’t need to describe it. What I will say is this.. when the movie first came out I was about 15-years old. I hadn’t seen it yet, but I knew I would love it. I asked mom to get it for me. For my birthday, or Christmas, who knows. Anyways, when I got it on VHS I remember watching it a bunch of times. It frightened the life out of me. It was the whole thing that did it. But specifically those last moments, when Mike is turned against the wall.. it kills me. There are several moments which chill me to the bone in The Blair Witch Project. I still think it’s one of the best found footage films out there, and certainly the one that really kicked off the modern fascination with this sub-genre.

8. Frankenstein’s Army (2013)Frankenstein's_Army_DVD_coverFor my full review, click here.

I love any kind of horror movie that incorporates World War II and/or Nazi Germany. It’s fascinating. Frankenstein’s Army works really well. It’s at a time when sound recording with film was still relatively a new and fascinating thing. The concept of found footage works well here. There’s even one point where Frankenstein himself (played by the always fascinating Karel Roden) asks about the camera being used, and remarks he has never seen one “of those types of camera… with sound“. Great little film. There are some genuinely weird and creepy moments in this one. A lot of Frankenstein’s forgotten toys, it seems. When they start spilling out the woodwork it’s really something to behold. I was frightened a few times, just trying to put myself in someone’s shoes back then, seeing things that we wouldn’t see until almost 70 years later, and only because of the imagination of film. It’s an impressive found footage horror, and certainly belongs on this list.

7. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
tGfBTG.pngFor my full review, click here.

I’d heard about this a long while before it actually came out, mainly because of Bryan Singer’s attachment as producer. Regardless, it turned out to be a super creepy little movie. Posing as a documentary about Alzheimers and those suffering with it as well as their caretakers, The Taking of Deborah Logan turns into something very scary. At first it seems like the disease is taking its toll on the titular Deborah. She scrapes her fingers until the nails nearly come off in her flower bed. At night, she’s climbing onto the counters while sleepwalking. Soon it becomes worse, and worse. And worse. Things get really scary, as Deborah’s past unfolds, and it comes back to haunt her. Literally. There are some extremely terrifying images in this one. The finale of the film is absolutely wild. I loved every second of it. I kept rewinding one part because I thought it was just so well done – the effects, everything. So satisfying. There were a few times I gasped out loud. I really recommend this to anyone tired of the same old plots in found footage, also.  This is a unique and fresh look at the sub-genre.

6. The Sacrament (2013)

For a full & in-depth review, click here.
large_sacrament Ti West is an absolute monster in the horror field. I mean this in the most wonderful way possible. I’ve been a fan of his since The House of the Devil, purchased his first feature film The Roost which I also really loved. His films are phenomenal. One of only two feature films West has not shot using film, The Sacrament is a found footage-style look at a Jim Jones-ish cult and its charismatic leader. There’s not much else to tell plot-wise. Other than a few minor bits, West uses Jones’ story almost verbatim at certain points. But that’s not for a lack of originality. West sort of gives Jones’ story to a modern audience, some of whom might not know the story (though who they are I don’t know myself), and sets it in a world where everyone knows VICE, and how they report on stories. West sets the story in a digital world. One where the cameras are rolling. Unlike the actual massacre, we get to see everything instead of just hearing bits of audio. We experience all the deaths, the throes of agony, the screaming, wailing children and men and women dying everywhere. We hear the gunshots and the merciless shouting and the tears. It’s all there. This is an unsettling film. Anyone who passes this off as merely a rehash of Jim Jones is wrong. The story is much the same, but it is worth the watch to experience all Ti West has conjured up for us.

5. V/H/S/2 (2013) & V/H/S: Viral (2014)

For my Blu ray review of the first V/H/S, click here.
For my Blu ray review on V/H/S/2, click here.
As well as a review of V/H/S: Viral here.

I’m a fan of the entire V/H/S trilogy, however, I think the 2nd & 3rd entries are both huge improvements on the first. The 3rd, being the best of all, is an even bigger improvement on the 2nd.vhs2_posterFor starters, V/H/S 2 contained two very well executed shorts: Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale’s “A Ride in the Park”, & Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto’s “Safe Haven”. The first is an absolutely fantastic POV zombie short about a man who goes for a bike ride in the park forest only to end up with the only disease worse than cancer: zombie. I really loved it. Great use of found footage and the zombie genre.
The second, “Safe Haven”, follows a documentary crew into an Indonesian cult’s complex where things slowly spiral out of control, and one of them discovers they’ve fathered more than just a baby with a good friend’s girl. This is a wild, wild ride. Lots of gore, lots of weirdness, and even a little dark humour to top things off. I really enjoyed it.
VHS-Viral-Glow-Faced-Body-Horror
V/H/S: Viral is, in my humble opinion, the best, or at the least most imaginative, of all three entries in this trilogy. The first short, Gregg Bishop’s “Dante the Great”, is a great little horror about a magician who discovers a cloak that can help him achieve even the most unknown of tricks. I really liked this one. Very unique take on horror, and honestly makes me crave a full-length feature about some sort of magician crossed with the horror genre; it works well here. The second is a mindbender from frequent mindfucker Nacho Vigalondo called “Parallel Monsters”. Basically it’s a view into another world. And it is god damn terrifying. I’ll say no more. The third segment (a fourth was cut from the first release on VOD but apparently will be added in later) is directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, who previously co-directed the interesting Resolution, is called “Bonestorm”. It’s a bunch of skater kids versus a strange Mexican death cult of some sort, who barrel out of the desert towards the as they kick flip and ollie around a skate park littered with animal feces and strange shrines. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, I think this is the best one of the lot. It’s pure horror. I loved it. Not that the other shorts in this 3rd installment aren’t great – they are – I just think Benson and Moorehead tap into the real horror, and it’s a great little bloody short with an almost homage to Evans’ previous ending in “Safe Haven”, although not as blackly comic as that. All in all, both of these V/H/S films are worth checking out, and even the first, but the latest two have really picked up in quality moving forward.

4. Lovely Molly (2011)

Read my review for the Blu ray release, which is spectacular and creepy as all hell.
gretchen-lodge-as-molly-in-lovely-molly-2011There are a lot of disturbing things going on in this one. Another Sánchez directed film (as were Blair Witch Exists if I failed to mention, and also “A Ride in the Park” from V/H/S 2 which I did mention). This is about two newlyweds who move back to the wife’s (Molly) childhood home, where she once lived with her seemingly crazy, cruel, demented father. Soon things begin to happen. The husband is worried. His new wife once had a serious drug habit, and it starts to come back. But something is spurring it on, leading her down that path again. Something very dark. There are some great shots in this. Particularly one later in the film where Molly walks out into the darkness, into the arms of something creepy, maybe dangerous. It’s highly unsettling. Watch this. There are some disturbing shots here that will linger on and on.

3. As Above, So Below (2014)
AsAboveSoBelow_BenFeldman-1024x576Perhaps it’s my interest in strange history, alchemy (et cetera), or maybe this is just one well-done found footage film. Whatever. I think this is fantastic. The plot is great: a young explorer tries to carry on her father’s work searching for the Philosopher’s Stone. Along with some help, after discovering the key to a complicated map in the cave systems below Iran, she ventures into the catacombs below Paris, into hidden chambers where she believes the Philosopher Stone might just be found. I thought this film played out very nicely. There were some genuinely chilling moments. One is in the trailer, in fact. However, there is a moment where a hooded figure sits on a creepy little chair, and even though nothing really happens it’s just the atmosphere which really draws me in and captivates me. So scary. The end was not typical of most found footage films, and I have to applaud it for finishing on the note it did. Different. I think this is worth a watch. It’s unique. We don’t always have to see the same recurring plot over and over. It’s nice to mix things up a little with found footage, and it can work in a variety of ways. As Above, So Below showcases how it can work when mixed with a little history and adventure. This is like a found footage horror version of Indiana Jones at times. Great film.

2. Noroi: The Curse (2005)
0c04aaf109299e9f705e8a26aba_prevI already talked about this one in my previous Halloween list. If you want detail, head back there! Just know this is one of the creepiest found footage films ever, and just a fascinatingly scary horror in general.

For my full review of this horrifying film, click here.

1. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)poughkeepsietapes7* For a full & chilling review, click here.

The granddaddy of them all – The Poughkeepsie Tapes. Lucky for me I caught this a long while ago, and earlier this year actually it briefly appeared on VOD for a short time before it was pulled (just like how out of nowhere its theatrical release got pulled seemingly). Nobody can find it nowadays. Turns out this is by the same director who went on to do another of my favourites from just earlier in the list, As Above, So Below. I’m hoping with some success from his latest film it might prompt someone to distribute this one, because when I saw this film I was transformed. I couldn’t believe it. Every image seemed to horrify me worse than the last. Things escalate more and more. The whole thing is a series of tapes left by a serial killer who of course recorded all his crimes. He is the ultimate killer. His methods change from kill to kill. He is always one step ahead of police and profiles and FBI agents alike. It’s truly scary. Some of the masks the killer wears, including a Plague Doctor mask, are just the worst things you can imagine. Terrible, and perfect. This is truly a symphony of horrors. There is one scene where the killer answers his door and meets two little Girl Guides. As the audience watches, he teeters on the edge of either letting them go or killing them. You can never tell which. Until finally they walk out the door. It’s once they leave we get the real horror- one of his victims was underneath the coffee table the whole time. It is a horrifying moment. The whole movie sticks with you long after it is over. I highly recommend this. Definitely the most scary and wild found footage horror film I have ever seen. If you get the chance, check it out, and you will not be disappointed. You certainly won’t get any sleep.