When it comes to films with designs to serve up equal parts satire of and homage to found footage flicks, there is only really one that jumps to mind that really resonated with me. The flick in question is Scott Glosserman’s BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, which worked as well it did because, despite taking the unabashedly self-aware approach, it didn’t lose its bearings and made damned sure not to neglect the fact that its target audience would be out for blood and a healthy helping of the real scares and clever plotting that made the films it was poking a bit of fun at so popular.
I’m glad to be able to report that writer/director Steven DeGennaro’s feature debut, FOUND FOOTAGE 3D succeeds in very much the same way by adopting a similar attitude, presumably the fruit of DeGennero’s designs to pinpoint where so much of all the crappy found footage that has been put out before shot itself in the foot and gave the sub-genre the bad rep it has right now. Although the plot is a bit more bare bones compared to the aforementioned LESLIE VERNON, FOUND FOOTAGE 3D’s ace up its sleeve is the deftly written dialogue and inspired humor, all buoyed by a completely committed cast who really make the whole thing all the more palpable and, accordingly, you can’t help but get sucked right in. And despite the film being a comedy at its core, it also manages to include a few well devised shit-your-pants scares that I honestly wasn’t expecting to see before heading into this one.
In brief, producer Derek (Carter Roy) wants to shoot a found footage flick that does what no other film in this overcrowded realm has done before. He turns up one day with a couple of suitcases full of cutting edge tech that would allow them to shoot their film in 3D. We all know that every found footage movie should have a reason why people would keep on shooting when supernatural shit starts hitting the fan so everyone just laughs the 3D gimmick idea off at first and this provides for a great bit of raillery as to why on earth anyone in their right minds would be heading off to the woods to shoot something sinister, let alone in 3D. But boys will be boys when it comes to new toys and once they get their hands on the equipment, the whole idea seems to make perfect sense so they load up the car and set off to shoot “The Spectre of Death 3D.”
The premise of their “Spectre of Death” project is what really makes the film as fun and intriguing as it is as it taps into today’s voyeuristic society. Producer Derek takes the lead role alongside his ‘real-life’ ex, Amy (Alena von Stroheim) and the film within the film is actually about a couple struggling in their relationship so you can imagine how much of the behind the scenes bickering seeps onto set.
The chemistry between the entire disparate band of cast and crew members works astoundingly well, particularly between Roy and von Stroheim, but also having a shy – and clearly jealous – editor, Mark (Chris O’Brien), as Amy’s shoulder to cry on helped create an intriguing bizarre love triangle of sorts.
Then, for big laughs, we get Scott Allen Perry’s sound guy, Carl, who, for reasons I won’t reveal here, turned down the chance of working on a Ben Affleck film to help shoot this one. He’s a joy to watch throughout but literally knocks it out of the park when he’s just sat riffing alone to the camera.
Another particular stand out scene for me, in terms of inspired comedy, came in the form of John Daws and Doran Ingram as the Wiseass Old-timer and the Earnest Old-timer respectively. These two locals are asked to prove their impromptu acting chops for the film by answering a few questions and letting on that something is very much amiss in the house where the crew plan to shoot. Their timing and facial expressions are out of this world perfect. Pure comedy gold.
A brief on-set visit from film critic Scott Weinberg when the chaos is already beyond salvaging also makes for some additional comic relief to give us a bit of a breather before all hell breaks loose in the film’s climax.
When things finally do start going seriously scare-shaped, the effects should ideally be seen in 3D to be truly appreciated as the 2D version doesn’t do the film anywhere near as much justice. And I assure you, some of the scares will really hit you harder than you expect, largely thanks to the comedy that paved the way before them.
A word of warning to the found footage naysayers: Please don’t be put off by the name of the film as that alone is just more proof of how firmly DeGennero’s tongue is pressed against his cheek and it’s by far one of the better horror/comedies I’ve seen of late. Definitely one to add to your collection if you’re a fan of films akin to likes of LESLIE VERNON and TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL and I’m certain we’ll soon start seeing this new addition to the sub-genre being added to all those ever-popular 10 FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS WORTH FINDING lists.
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D just screened at Bruce Campbell’s Horror Fest, where it won the Jury Award, and it can next be caught at London’s FrightFest this coming Monday, August 29th.
Four out of five Good Guys suggest you shouldn’t miss it.