The Fear Footage Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Written and directed by Ricky Umberger
2018, 71 minutes, Not Rated
I want you to stop for a second and (assuming you are old enough to remember) think back to the buzz around The Blair Witch Project. Y’all remember that one, don’t you? It transformed a subgenre forever and changed the game in terms of making a lot from a little. Everyone has opinion on found footage, and that is generally either extreme love or extreme hate. Found footage is a staple nowadays due to the inherent scare value and ability to shoot on the cheap. It’s also very easy to market and sell as scary…but only in the right hands.
The Fear Footage has a very simple (and ingenious) premise: Deputy Leo Cole is dispatched to a house at 11628 Hangmanor Road in Darkbluff, Maryland, after a 911 call of a previously demolished house of horrors reappearing out of thin air. All that was left of Cole was his body cam, gun, and car. What he found inside simply cannot be explained…except through his body cam footage, of course.
I wasn’t expecting an anthology, which was a pleasant surprise. I have a special place in my heart for anthologies that goes all the way back to 1972’s Tales from the Crypt. The found footage anthology hybrid has been done well recently with movies like the V/H/S series, but rest assured that The Fear Footage is one hundred percent its own thing (though it does pay homage with some style nods to those aforementioned films).
The ultra-low budget is on display, but here’s the thing: you forget about that facet of it within the first five minutes of the film. That is the ultimate compliment to a film. You never think, “Why would you do that?” or, “This is silly”. You just go with it. When horror hits that sweet spot, you are in for a treat. You won’t have to suspend your disbelief; it’ll be in the corner staying real quiet.
The three stories are wildly different from each other (and the wraparound story of Deputy Cole), but all are executed with equal skill. They increase in intensity as the stories progress, punctuated by a further search of the house that shouldn’t be in between each one to show you just how bad a situation this poor cop has wandered into.
The first, titled “Birthday Party”, presents us with young Braden on the eve of his eleventh birthday. He’s gotten a new camera, and he is wearing that bad boy out. There have been a rash of clown sightings terrorizing the local population (sound familiar?). Before you can say Bozo, Braden sees one in his backyard that terrorizes him out of the watchful of his stressed-out mother. After Mom goes downstairs to investigate, it gets intense.
Up next is “Storm Stalkers”, and it follows a group of storm chasers on the hunt. They hit a man with their car while flying down a backroad in the middle on nowhere. They are beset and attacked by freaks in robes and soon find themselves in a graffiti laden tunnel system. The hell awaiting in the tunnels is far worse than the robed lunatics, but either way there’s nowhere to run.
“Speak No Evil” is the final tale, and it is the story of Dan, a man whose woman recently left him due to his obsession with the strange noises coming from the woods behind their apartment. He’s documenting his investigation to prove to her he isn’t crazy in the hopes that she’ll come back. His research leads him to the story of Pastor Marsh and his little church in the woods. During a Halloween sleepover, all the children were brutally murdered. Their ears, eyes, and toes were missing, and they were all holding pieces of paper with the phrase “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” written on them. The Pastor was never found, and his toddler son was adopted. As the noises and activity increase in frequency and intensity, Dan is drawn into the woods where the church (and an unholy surprise) await him.
The wraparound story has a fantastic payoff as Deputy Cole struggles to escape, only to be confronted with the implacability of the horror he’s now trapped in. The final few minutes run at blistering speed, assaulting the senses with a plethora of howling, black nightmare candy.
The Fear Footage covers all the bases with impressive style and presentation given the miniscule budget. There are jump scares, of course, but there’s an equal number of subtle background creepiness and some stellar “fight or flight” scares where the terror gets right in your face. Designed via A-plus sound tricks and skillful use of the dark settings, it’s like spending an intimate 71 minutes in a first-rate haunted house. It produces the same physical response – the jumps, the goosebumps, the hair on your neck standing up, that delicious chill up the spine. There is no lag and no letup.
The marketing campaign harkens back to The Blair Witch Project, but it’s done in a minimalist way that’s perfect for the modern day. There are no Facebook or Twitter promotional pages, and there is only a bare bones IMDB page. What little info you can find is at www.thefearfootage.com. I dig that kind of dedication.
The Fear Footage deserves to be seen in a theater or (as the director advised me) “in a dark room with the sound way up”. It’s designed to scare, pure and simple. A found footage anthology that acknowledges its forefathers while carving its own path, The Fear Footage is the one you want to bring a date that can’t handle horror movies or a found footage hater to.
They’ll really hate you when it’s over with.