Self-parody, Shudder, and the dangers of social media: This week, we review “Found Footage 3D”, “Unfriended”, and “Can’t Take it Back”.
Welcome to another edition of The Cine-Files, a weekly film journal where I share what I’m watching each week and rate each film on a color scale, inspired by my love of Sour Patch Kids candy — green for the worst films, orange for average films, red for the great films, and blue for the absolute best of the best.
This week, our friend at Shudder were kind enough to share a couple of entertaining exclusives, and we attempt to defend a much maligned movie about the greatest evil ever…Facebook!
Found Footage 3D-the 2D version (2016, directed by Steven DeGennaro)
When I reviewed Aliens: Zone of Silence last week, I mentioned some of the “rules” of found footage cinema, and it appears I was on the right track, because characters in this film make reference to the exact same “rules”. I am an unapologetic nut for found footage! I find it so immersive and so creepy. There is no artistic filter, no layers of what the filmmakers want to “say” or whatever. It’s just you, and what the camera lens sees. No bullshit gets in the way. That is, if you play along and use your imagination, of course. I’m surprised so few members of the horror film community aren’t willing to play along.
I will agree, however, with the notion that originality and good ideas are in short supply. I even saw a found footage movie once about a group of twenty-somethings trapped in a cabin, under attack by a T-Rex. Not one of the better representations of the best of what the sub-genre has to offer.
In Found Footage 3D, Derek, a writer and film producer, has a brilliant plan for a new found footage gimmick: 3D found footage. To their dismay, his director, Andrew, brother Mark, and sound man Carl, watch Derek open up some expensive-looking cases to reveal 3D cameras. Two of them! He waves them around and like a mad scientist explains to his “crew” how a found footage 3D movie is going to work. One camera to actually shoot with, and another to document the entire process, but have that be in 3D too! Derek thinks they’re going to blow minds and really pull one over on the morons who continue to spend money on crap like this.
I loved the self-parody of it. That’s part of the clever irony of the movie. This may “just” be a found footage movie, but it keeps you entertained and thinking. Derek ends up doing a lot of very deceptive things to his crew for the sake of the film, and at the end of the movie he . . . haha, thought you were going to trick me, huh? Nope.
This is a Shudder exclusive, and one they should really be proud to be carrying. It has a “movie-within-a-movie-within-a-laptop-editing-program” that is quite clever and very unique. I didn’t have the mechanical ability to see it in 3D, but I gather the use of the format is just as clever as the plot and dialogue. But, just to be clear, you CAN STILL SEE IT AND ENJOY IT IN 2D! So, go watch it! Support the people with new ideas, and the streaming services that give them the opportunity to share their art.
Unfriended (2014, directed by Levan Gabriadze)
The first horror movie filmed entirely on Skype! It’s an obnoxious, gossipy snark-fest between six high school “friends”. But the conversation is suddenly interrupted by the Internet presence of a fellow student who recently committed suicide. They slowly descend from mocking and insulting this “stranger” into absolute, blind, screaming, weeping terror as they are forced into committing suicide, one-by-one, in front of everyone else in the conversation.
Ok, you with me there? I’m really going to lay it all down on the railroad tracks and say this movie is fucking brilliant!!
The use of the Skype format, the fact that teen drama can cause serious emotional damage, the tragedy of extreme cyber-bullying, and the chilling concept that something in your computer is manipulating you into committing suicide against your will. These factors are mixed into cake batter and make an extremely fascinating and intense dessert experience. No, really! I have read nothing but hate for this movie, but I just don’t get it. It tells the story is so inventively (and yes, from inside all the teen sarcasm, a legitimate story does emerge).
And the suicides!!! Some of the teens are cleverly tricked into it, while others just go for the old “suicide by trying to swallow a curling iron” routine. I hope you caught the irony there. Yes, she fucking throats a hot curling iron! Delicious! Now, yeah, there are a million different ways this situation could have been safely resolved, but where’s the fun in that?
Play along a little bit! Suspend disbelief! Or give it detention, at least! This adulthood shit would be a lot more fun if you did. Give Unfriended a try, or maybe watch and re-evaluate it. Merciless supernatural teenage vengeance awaits you.
Can’t Take it Back (2017, directed by Tim Shechmeister)
We must be forgiving, open-minded, and respect other people’s art, yes? Of all people, we in the horror community should try to practice those things. This is one of the occasions when I get in a little bit of extra practice. There are some very creative and memorable ideas floating around in Can’t Take it Back, and high school revenge movies are like catnip for me. I can’t get enough of them. Even cheesy n’ sleazy stuff like Tamara. This movie has truckloads more class than Tamara, though.
One thing that really sticks out for me is the ghost. Yes, it’s only editing tricks, black and white face paint, and stage blood, but that’s really all you need. Ever see Carnival of Souls? I could be a Grinch and mockingly say “oh scary, another angry teenage ghost in a white nightgown who skitters across hallways and screams”, but I refuse to do that. Because personally, I love that shit!! I eat it up, and it doesn’t even need to be warmed up by mom. Keep in mind, the Cine-files posts are reACTIONS more than they are reVIEWS.
There’s also a lot of cutting in this. So, if that’s a trigger for anybody, be cautious. In life, the ghost girl in Can’t Take it Back was a very powerful psychic (like X-Men-level powerful) who is so overwhelmed by the voices in her head that she scares the other kids. And so she is shunned and very lonely for her entire short life. She is eventually driven to suicide, but there really isn’t any horror trouble until her Facebook memorial page starts getting trolled with sick and cruel messages from other students.
And the rest, boils and ghouls, as I always say, is up to you to find out.
While not a particularly standout supernatural teen revenge saga, it shines a bit brighter than most average “meh” movies due to the things I mentioned above, as well as a moderately surprising and heartbreaking ending, an extended chase scene in the ghost girl’s high school, and a very spooky beginning. Catch it on Shudder. Support the ones who are making the effort to get their films out there.