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“Puzzle Box” is a deeply affecting, truly frightening found footage film that delivers a surprising amount of depth and character investment.

Puzzle Box

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Puzzle Box is an Australian horror film by director Jack Dignan, which follows two sisters, one of whom is a drug addict trying to get clean.

I love found footage films, especially ones that push the limit of what we expect to see in this genre. Puzzle Box is a really unique and interesting watch. It begins with a plot similar to Evil Dead (2013), taking a surprising turn and whiplashing you into a convoluted, reality-bending place you never see coming.

Kait (Kaitlyn Boye) is attempting to go a whole week without touching drugs after multiple rehab attempts. Her sister, Olivia (Laneikka Denne), decides to document the journey as proof that Kait really was willing to do whatever it takes to be free from addiction.

With atmospheric surroundings and a haunting landscape, the tone of what’s to come is set from the moment the women exit the car.

Once the horror starts, with banshee screams heard from the woods, it creeps behind you and really comes out of nowhere. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, anticipating the next jumpscare. Once the sisters realize that someone else is there with them, it is far too late.

The demon unsettled me to my core. It was done so well with fantastic direction from Dignan, who manages to give us something terrifying without overselling the gore. It’s a case of less being more, a masterfully simple execution that truly delivers on the frights.

It’s the kind of terror that stuck with me even after I finished watching.

Dealing with addiction and mental health is always a sensitive subject matter.

Puzzle Box reaches deep inside and delivers some nauseating truths.

At the center of this film is our protagonist, dealing with something all too real and painful. Boye’s strong performances makes the horror relatable and all the more tragic.

Mentally and physically, she goes through the wringer. It’s tough to watch her turn to old vices out of desperation. We see the harsh reality of a last resort, one final chance to get things right that fails to deliver the happy ending we hope for.

As past memories are manifested in front of the sisters’ eyes, viewers are giving a glimpse at their family history and what led them to where they are in present time.

I have very few criticisms of the film. My only complaint may be that it overcomplicates much of the plot towards the end. It’s hard to tell what’s happening or what direction we are heading in. As a viewer, it began to get frustrating and really was like solving a puzzle.

However, I have to commend the ending; it really was somber and gut-wrenching.

Puzzle Box is a film filled with depth and heartbreaking performances that elevate this horror into something powerful and realistic. It’s a must-see for any found-footage horror fan. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5
Puzzle Box premiered virtually at Popcorn Frights in August 2024 and was recently shown at the 2024 Unnamed Footage Festival (UFF), where it was screened for this review. Welcome Villain Films (Malum, Beaten to Death, Hunt Her Kill Her) has acquired the film for release in the coming months. 

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