Found Footage 3D Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by FF3D
Written and Directed by Steven DeGennaro
2016, 108 minutes, Not yet rated
Frightfest European premiere on 29th August 2016
Carter Roy as Derek
Alena von Stroheim as Amy
Chris O' Brien as Mark
Scott Allen Perry as Carl
"How are we going to separate ourselves from every other shitty found footage movie that people are making these days?” So asks director Derek of his found footage horror movie, The Spectre of Death. Answer: 3D. Meta answer: Deadpool it up, with fourth-wall breaking humour, arch self-commentary and a cameo by a well-known film critic. But also 3D.
Shooting their low-budget cabin in the woods horror movie (a subgenre which is actually relatively untouched by the found footage craze), a film crew head out to a haunted cabin (in the woods) where both they and their movie-within-a-movie characters are beset and terrorised by supernatural forces. Both films’ gimmick – filming in (mostly) 3D.
It’s the meta humour that Found Footage 3D leans into most heavily though, a running commentary on found footage clichés and the lack of imagination therein. Expect a great deal of wondering aloud why characters would still be carrying cameras and filming, and a surprising amount of bitching about the less good films in the subgenre (apparently everything but Blair Witch and one other movie which goes unmentioned); not so much biting the hand that feeds but rather gnawing it off, to the bone.
Unfortunately, like the similarly insufferable Deadpool, it critiques the subgenre while simultaneously doing absolutely everything that it purports to rebel against. The actors constantly bicker and argue, it looks and sounds awful (but in 3D), the story is hopelessly drawn out until about ten minutes before the end, cameras are needlessly carried around while still filming, and the goddamn thing doesn’t even end properly. If you’re going to rage against terrible found footage horror films within a found footage horror film, you should probably check that your film isn’t itself terrible. And the jury’s well and truly out on that one. For while Found Footage 3D does its thing slickly and with ambition, it accidentally winds up telling one of the more by-the-numbers found footage films out there – literally the only difference being its 3D and the fact that the actors are constantly talking about how bad most movies of its ilk are.
For the first half an hour, that’s enough to see us through. It starts out funny and likeable, well-acted and smooth. There’s even a really good Bruce Campbell impression (from its best character, moody sound technician Carl). The enthusiasm around the 3D is kind of adorable, and the early snark gives off a nice little Cabin in the Woods vibe. And then we get to the cabin in the woods, where the pace slows to a crawl and the rot sets in. But maybe that’s the point, though? Hiding behind his satire, writer and director Steven DeGennaro has essentially crafted a critic-proof movie. And, as if to highlight the point, he even has one cameo in it: Scott Weinberg (who is also credited as a producer, along with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Kim Henkel!). This icky-feeling gratuity is at least kept short, and Weinberg talks far less than he tweets.
Livening back up considerably for the end, Found Footage 3D does have enough going for it to not feel like a complete waste. Its supernatural entity sits neatly on the right side of threatening, off-setting the comedy well, and there’s some inventive gore and scares during the climax. The 3D too, is fine, although the inherent gloominess of the medium tends to make the film look even worse in places. This at least means we get a found footage horror film set mostly during the daylight hours; keeping scenes of running around screaming in the dark to a minimum. There is still far too much running around screaming in the dark though.
Ultimately, it’s a disappointment. Its earlier and late sequences showcase a real ingenuity (taping 3D glasses over the lens to achieve some shots? Genius) and a potential for originality that could have elevated the film to the top of its subgenre - but instead, it’s more interested in taking cheap (albeit tongue-in-cheek) shots, wasting its genuine talents and presumably very expensive cameras the process.
So how does Found Footage 3D separate itself from every other shitty found footage movie that people are making these days? Setting aside the 3D and the Deadpool humour, the unfortunate answer is that it doesn’t, really.