Found Footage Fails

Blair Witch Project

“I’m sorry to my mom…for losing her camera in the woods forever.”

So while I haven’t seen 90% of the world’s popular modern film classics, I have seen an absurd number of horror films (not all of them gr8, but that’s another post) and routinely spend hours at a time searching for what I deem well executed and, ideally, actually scary horror films. Having seen, I would wager, all “classic” horror films (minus zombie ones because omg idc) and probably most cult classics, I am constantly searching for new nightmare material, which is unfortunately pretty gd hard to find. To me a “good” horror movie requires a very particular balance of story, execution, acting, and aesthetics, such that it holds up not only as a horror film but as a film in general.

This balance is, imaginably, pretty fucking hard to attain.

Of course I, having never made a horror movie myself, can’t speak to the semantic difficulties of one’s execution, nor justify any of the “failures” common of the genre. Likewise I am by no means a film scholar or expert critic – so consider that a disclaimer for all observations made in this and future posts. THAT SAID as a rather experienced layman viewer and lover of horror, and also as a self-important, extremely bored human being, I reckon I can contribute something of meager merit on the subject. 

There seems to be a fairly standard recipe for a “good” horror film and its presentation: setting the scene, building suspense, the first blatant reveal of a threat and thereafter varying escalations to the final shitstorm of spooks. Simple, tried but true, Horror 101 stuff. However basic there are still tons of ways to utilize this pattern successfully, creating a product with a strong story and good scares – and of course roughly 10 billion ways to fuck it up. Deviating from this pattern makes for even more of a challenge, but if properly executed an even more impressive and memorable product.

The standard progression of found footage horror films is perhaps even more predictable: people set out to film thing, thing becomes dangerous, shit gets real and they die. Of every found footage film that I’ve seen, only two of them deviate from this pattern. Two, out of 20+. That considered, I understand why people dismiss or dislike the genre; I used to be one of them. But for some reason I have been on a found footage kick lately and have seen far, far too many films not to write about them.

I have sat through hours of the good, the bad, and the inexcusably stupid to feed my new fixation. Some of that time could have been better spent doing laundry or punching myself in the face (both of which would’ve been more entertaining/scary than some of these films), but for the most part it was worth it. Excluding the total garbage ones, there were some decently spooky, if not particularly remarkable, movies – and to my own surprise some that I would even consider part of my top horror films of all time.

But let’s start with the garbage ones.


(Warning: There are slight spoilers in my discussion of the following films, but trust me you’re not any worse off for that.)

Devil’s Pass

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Summary: A group of college kids head to the Ural Mountains to uncover the truth behind the Dyatlov Pass Incident, in which a group of hikers mysteriously died in 1959.

As with most found footage horror I went into this one with low-to-zero expectations. Even so, I was disappointed.

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“U wot, mate?”

The film opens with a news clip concerning the students’ disappearance, immediately revealing its adherence to the standard found footage pattern. That admission aside, one would expect the film to make up for lack of innovation with some additional creative spin on the concept. It does not.

Every aspect of the film sticks to textbook basics, from the obvious progression of the characters (two-dimensional teen movie defaults) into madness, to the token romantic subplot they shakily employ. As for scares, unless pretty lights make you shit your pants you can count yourself safe.

Main offense: Found Footage Faux-Pas #1 – Special FX Overkill

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When in doubt, blame monsters…right?

The final moments of this film are a goddamn mess. Suddenly there are monsters and portals and time-travel – as if in the writers’ room they had listed every tired and contrived Sci-Fi twist possible and decided, Let’s just use all of them! What could go wrong?

EVERYTHING. In an apparent rush to wrap things up the film delivers a vague and haphazard explanation for all the mysterious happenings, involving secret government experiments during the Cold War. Had they explored this point further it could’ve made for a really rad story – especially considering the Dyatlov Pass Incident, the event on which the characters base their expedition, actually happened – but instead, they commit found footage taboo: falling back on cheap FX.

Not to say that special FX have no place in found footage films – they can be used effectively, which in most cases means sparsely – but for a genre dependent on the authenticity and believability of the product it’s insanely risky to incorporate CGI. Especially in the form of some generic monsters who serve no purpose other than inane shock factor. Devil’s Pass sacrifices story for cheap “scares,” and not well at that.

 

TL;DR: Clichés culminating in a cop-out.

Redeeming qualities: Like, I guess the snowy mountains were pretty.

Rating: This movie sucked. I rate it 0 out of 2 million babooshkas.


 

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Confessions of a Pop Culture Pariah

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So… “Star Wars” just came out (#topical). Like…I guess people care about that.

I HOWEVER find myself in the delectably hip position of being able to say I do not give even half a flying fuck about the new “Star Wars.” Because I have never seen it. Any of them.

Unless you count the ~month my 9th grade Physics teacher played Episode IV for us after giving up on life (which I don’t, because I slept through it), I have never seen any of the Star Wars franchise. As much as I weirdly cherish the shock value of being a statistical minority in whatever context, I do find myself sort of bothered in this case. Star Wars is a massive cultural phenomenon spanning ~40 years and permeating international borders in a way only entertainment media can do, and here I stand on the outside, wondering who the fuck Han Solo is. (That’s Harrison Ford, right? I literally have no idea.)

Granted science fiction is not my thing, and as it wasn’t part of my childhood Star Wars may never make it into my top 10 favorite classic films or whatever, but I still feel like I should give it a shot. I’m compelled to watch at least the original three, at least once, just so I can consider myself a legitimate member of the human race.

Call it peer pressure – I call it practical, for on more than one occasion my pop cultural ignorance has caused *genuine* turbulence in my friendships. It’s not only Star Wars that I’ve more or less unconsciously avoided, but a staggering list of cult-or-otherwise classics I have somehow gone 23 years without seeing.

Below, an abbreviated list of Popular Films I Have Never Seen, AKA Reasons My Friends Threaten to Disown Me:

The Matrix
Blade Runner
Jurassic Park
The Godfather
Fight Club (book was p good though)
Titanic
Goodfellas
Forrest Gump
Saving Private Ryan
American History X
Indiana Jones (any of them)
Terminator (any of them)
Predator
Apocalypse Now
Citizen Kane
Oldboy
Braveheart
Full Metal Jacket
2001: A Space Odyssey
Willow
Life of Brian (or any other Monty Python film, except Holy Grail)
Seven Samurai (how did I complete my Japanese major?)
My Neighbor Totoro (I don’t know how I missed this one either)
V for Vendetta (what I did see of it was garbage tho)
Annie Hall
Sin City
Groundhog Day
The Truman Show
Love Actually
Jaws
any Rocky movie
any James Bond movie (except Casino Royale for some reason)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hackers
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Clerks (any of them)
Dazed and Confused
Wayne’s World
Lethal Weapon
Mission Impossible
Die Hard (any of them)
The Hobbit
Gremlins (angry at myself for this one)
Armageddon
any Austin Powers movie
The Goonies
Caddyshack
Robocop (I’M SORRY)
any Fast and Furious movie
Ghostbusters (SORRY)
Scarface

And too, too many more.

…I mean, I’ll get to watching some of them eventually.

It looks like I’ve consciously avoided all mainstream box office phenomena since I was literally born, but I promise it was not my intention to skip out on all of pop culture. Arguably my interests just don’t align with the stuff of mainstream movies (there’s my inner hipster! knew she’d show up sometime in this post). Shou ga nai, ne.

…I don’t know how I have friends, either.

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P.S.: Re: this being a “fashion” blog or whatever: …uh. Yeah, whatever.

I’m gonna use this blog toward whatever end I desire on a given day, ‘cause to be honest fashion is an extremely marginal interest of mine. So let’s pardon Past Charlotte for tryharding and move on.

Not that I won’t ever post about fashion. I probably will. But why box myself in unnecessarily?

From now on this blog will constitute whatever I want it to. Anything about which I give fucks shall be posted here. This is the Blog of Charlotte’s Fucks.

…There’s no reason to make that title stick.

Bye. XX