found footage

All posts tagged found footage

M. Night Shyamalan Surprises with The Visit

Published September 13, 2015 by vfdpixie


The Visit (2015, I hr, 34 mins)


Remember when The Sixth Sense created a buzz in 1999 and got all those Oscar nominations?  And then came Unbreakable (2000), which was a different take on the superhero, and Signs (2002), where aliens invade Earth while a grieving pastor questions his reason for being, both also critically acclaimed.  These films all paved a yellow brick road for M. Night Shyamalan, giving him the reputation for being a fresh voice in the horror, sci-fi and supernatural genres.  Unfortunately, he came out with more than a few misses, like The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008),  and After Earth (2013), branding him with an involuntary roll of the eyes when mentioned by the less than forgiving masses.  Thankfully, his latest contribution does the opposite by taking the already tedious found footage genre and pumping refreshingly new life into it with The Visit.

15-year-old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are going to visit their grandparents for the first time.  Their mother (Kathryn Hahn) has been estranged from her parents for 15 years, and at their request, she is reluctantly sending the kids on a week-long stay at their farm in rural Pennsylvania.  Becca is a budding filmmaker and wants to create a documentary based on her mother’s life and familial rift in the hopes of a reunion in the future, so this trip makes for great content and she plans to catch everything on film.

When the kids meet their grandparents, they are excited and apprehensive.  The air is cordial and slightly awkward as they get to know each other, and they explore their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop’s (Peter McRobbie) farm, trying get an angle on them, but things get stranger and stranger as the week goes by.  The seniors exhibit odd and disturbing behaviour, warning their grandkids to stay in their room after 9:30 p.m. because of Nana’s strange nocturnal afflictions.  This leaves Becca and Tyler baffled and soon terrified as a gruesome secret is revealed.

I was on the fence as to whether I would see this latest Shyamalan attempt, since I too was one of those eye-rollers.  I loved his first few films, and I think Devil was underrated, but The Village and The Happening left a bad taste in my mouth, and I became wary of the now expected twist with his films.  He regained my trust recently with Wayward Pines, where he directed the pilot and produced the series.  I had to give him credit with his efforts to tell this weird and wonderful tale, and now he has won me over again with The Visit.

It was refreshing that I didn’t know what to expect from seeing the commercials and the trailer.  I did wonder if it was a comedy because of Kathryn Hahn, who has a long comedic resume, and I was right, but there was no slapstick here.  Instead, there was a slow burn build-up of weirdness and Oxenbould’s brilliant portrayal of the nerdy and hilarious hip-hop enthusiast Tyler made the film for me.  His timing broke up tension in a way that mirrored audience reactions and added to the overall mystery of the plot.  Dunagan and McRobbie took the archetypical loving grandparents to a sinister place and didn’t hold back once the plot turned, and look out for some old school Brothers Grimm references.  Oh, and that Shyamalan twist is very present and will not disappoint.

As the end credits rolled for The Visit, I couldn’t help but think this was a cinematic raspberry blown at those of us who reminded him how terrible some of his efforts were, and to offset the many Golden Raspberry Awards he’s won in the past.  This time, with a mere 5 million dollar budget, Shyamalan redeems himself.  Aside from a couple of dead-end scares and a somewhat sappy ending, he successfully leads us down a road with blinders on only to rip them off and shove us off a pretty crazy cliff.  Go see it if you want a surprising horror comedy with Hansel and Gretel overtones and a decent found footage revival.





This one’s for the Bros!

Published December 11, 2012 by vfdpixie

(2012, 1 hr 56 mins)

Here is another found footage movie for the books, but this one smells like a frat house.

I love a good anthology horror movie, my favourite being The Monster Club, a 1981 collection of stories that had cheese, monsters, and it’s fun.  V/H/S is not really fun and stars lots of bros.  Doing stuff to get, or get at, chicks.  In essence, a lot of horror involves boobies and hot girls, but there is a tongue-in-cheek “given” of fantasy.  It’s a fine line to walk, and an easy one to cross, so it requires finesse.  Unfortunately, this movie cracks a can of beer one-handed, chugs it, belches real loud, and crushes the can on its forehead.

The stories are tied together by Tape 56 (dir. Adam Wingard).  A group of violent hipster criminals are hired to break into a house and steal a vhs tape.  As they tear around the mostly empty house, each one realizes that the tape is in a vcr in a room full of T.V.’s and the only person watching is a dead man in an armchair.  Each hipster hunkers down to watch this found tape and we are shown 5 shorts:

Amateur Night (dir. David Bruckner) brings us 3 creeps with spy camera glasses who think it would be fun to film something x-rated,  some amateur porno with girls they pull from bars.  They get more than they bargain for when a big-eyed weird girl they pick up gets hungry.

Next up is Second Honeymoon (dir. Ti West).  We follow a young couple on a road trip.  They kind of get along and try to have fun checking out small towns and nasty hotels.  One night, a young woman knocks on their hotel door to ask for a ride.  She is creepy, gains access to their room while they sleep, and plays an unexpected role on this road trip.

Tuesday the 17th (dir. Glenn McQuaid) was my least favourite.  Taking the standard 4 kids at the lake/cabin/camp with a killer formula, this director tries to inject new life into it.  Bleh!  Next!

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger (dir. Joe Swanberg)  was more orginial. It used video web chat to magnify isolation and one’s fear of being alone.  Emily is convinced her new apartment is haunted and calls her boyfriend online so he can witness the weird noises to prove she is not paranoid.  What happens is an interesting twist on the ghost story that I didn’t see coming at all.

10/31/98 (dir. Radio Silence) shows us more bros heading to a Halloween party.  They find a house void of revellers and think the chills and thrills they experience there are part of the night’s festivities.  They soon realize that the party is in the attic, but no one brought the dip.  Just daggers, rope and maybe posession.

I’m a little annoyed at this film.  While the point of view was cleverly done in a couple shorts, I expected more.  The characters, both men and women, were one-dimensional.  Everyone was either really mean or really clueless.  I understand that it must be difficult to cram plot and character developement into a short, but they just didn’t sit right with me.  I recognized Joe Swanberg from A Horrible Way to Die, which was a great film, directed by Amateur Night’s Adam Wingard.  Swanberg is a solid actor and did a good job with his installment for V/H/S.  I also didn’t mind 10/31/98 because it had an interesting twist on formulaic horror.  Ti West, however, who directed the amazing House of the Devil, has been on my shit list since The Innkeepers (Yawn! Too long!) He gets a pass only because he too threw a curve ball at the ending of his piece.  These directors all have a good body of work behind them. This project seems like it was dreamt up over brews and buds; a network of buddies with budgets. Innovative, yes, but definitely not my fave.

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