If you are even a remotely tenured genre fan, you know about or have seen something falling into the “meta-horror” bucket. Think Scream. Well here we have a self aware found footage horror film, and it’s coming our way complete with those shitty red/cyan 3D glasses you may or may not remember from your childhood. This thing is all about toying with the expectations we have when watching a found footage flick. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, this is your weekly reminder that we will be spoiling things after the trailer. We always recommend jumping in blind, so frankly, I’ve probably already said too much. Oh well, let’s just get to it.
Reviewed by: Jake
Found Footage 3D falls in with the “meta-horror” crowd, and if it isn’t abundantly clear from the title of the movie itself, it takes dead-aim at the found footage corner of the genre. For the most part, and in the spirit of brevity, that’s really all you need to know. It’s a self-aware look at all the tropes, good and bad, that have become so well known as part of one of horror’s most popular styles over the past few years. The basic series of events here are that we are thrust into the movie making voyage of a group of small-time film makers who are filming a found footage horror movie. But it can’t be just any found footage movie, it has to have a killer hook. A point of differentiation. Drum roll please… It’s going to be the first found footage horror film in 3D!
From here we follow the group as they set off to film a movie (in 3D) about a husband and wife who are filming a movie about a haunted farmhouse in rural texas. They quickly find themselves in a situation where the subject matter of their movie is being realized on film. There are pros and cons to this.
You can abandon the script and improv the hell out of everything.
You don’t need to worry about your effects budget anymore.
Someone will actually “find” your footage, because (see below)
You are now dead
You are going to run up one hell of a late fee on those rented 3D cameras
Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter because you’re now dead
Let’s take a look at how it fared as a film...
What the Movie Does Right
I saw some commentary on this flick right after it came out that called it “Scream of the found footage genre”. Ok. Let’s dissect that a bit. What that means is that this is a meta movie. It is self aware and that it is about the thing itself. In this case, the thing in question is the concept of found footage horror and all the tropes it brings in tow. Remember that scene in Scream where Randy explains the rules to surviving a slasher, all while he’s unknowingly playing a role in a slasher himself?
Well in this movie you get the director explaining the considerations that need to be made to make a better-than-horseshit found footage flick. Have a reason for filming. Have a reason to keep filming when the proverbial shit hits the fan. He does this while being within a found footage movie himself and those very same questions do come up. This is just scratching the surface of the myriad nods to the genre at play here, and many of them are quite smart and handled to fairly good comedic effect. There is a certain charm and genius in the immunity this movie has to its own stink. There are dumb things at play here, but they all happen simultaneous to the crew acknowledging them and at times even making fun of the viewer for them.
Based on what I just said, it should come as no surprise that this is a really funny movie. The situations are funny, the metaness is funny, and some of the characters are really, really funny. I’m looking at you, Carl (Scott Allen Perry).
The other big thing that I think needs to be mentioned here is the 3D delivery of the movie. I’m the only one in our group who watched it in 3D,and I’d like to think I got the intended treatment. I’m going to pause for a second here and give a shout out to Shudder for not having one, or two, or three, but four different versions of this movie available for viewing. You can watch it in 2D like a chump, but why would you do that when you can throw on some cardboard red/cyan spectacles? Have one of those actual 3D tv’s? First of all, why? Second of all, I guess you have something to watch now, so good work…
There’s just enough novelty at play here for this to be mentionable in this category of the proceedings, but it’s also the last thing I’m mentioning because it doesn’t feel like it was totally essential to the experience. There weren’t any big sequences where it felt like something was popping out of the screen and had me ducking for cover. That being said, even this plays into the filmmakers hand. The 3D aspect was sprung on them at the last possible moment. What chops would they have with that equipment and film style? None. How would they know how to make full use of it? They wouldn’t. I see what you did there.
What the Movie Does Wrong
While the 3D element may be an overall boon to the film, I’ve gotta take a second to at least mention that, totally objectively, 3D is stupid. In a way, this too plays right into the hand of the filmmakers because at the end of the day I’m the grown ass man sitting alone on a couch with fucking cereal box glasses on my face watching their shitty movie that they have told me is shitty throughout the film. “But Jake” you say, “isn’t this something that the movie did right?” Fuck you. No. I had a moment of self reflection during this that made me so sad with myself that I am obliged to put this here as a warning to the rest of you. Tread lightly, kids…
A couple more rapid fire complaints: First, the acting can be pretty wooden at times. There are quite a few moments in this movie that are hilarious and are well delivered, but they are met with just as many awkward sequences with universally poor delivery. Again, this could be something the movie was going for and a point it was trying to make, but I rarely give points for things that are done poorly just to do them poorly. The CG spectre in the film falls into this category as well. It looks horrible. They told me it would. But that doesn’t magically make it any more palatable.
Finally, and this is a big one; the movie is too long. Way too long. We’re talking over 100 minutes long. For a movie where you’re supposed to wear 3D glasses, this thing wears out its welcome by a solid 20 minutes. I can think of at least three (meaning exactly three) multi-minute sequences that could be cut and have absolutely zero impact on the finished product. There’s one in particular at a bar that would actually make the movie better by removing itself.
Story: 6 - The meta-aspect really helps this film out. Overall, even with the self-awareness and the winking, I don’t think this will reach the heights of some other meta entries to the genre like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods. It’s far too specific. But it’s fun for what it is.
World-Building / Immersion: 3 - I can only be so immersed in a film that is constantly asking me to think about my status as a viewer of said film. Add to it the sting of the cardboard goggles as they progressively crushed the bridge of my nose over it’s lengthy runtime, and I can’t go high here.
Scare-Factor: 5 - This is more a funny movie than a scary movie, but there are sequences here (particularly near the beginning) that build tension pretty well. It’s far from totally void of spookiness.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6 - The bulk of this is the 3D gimmick, but it’s all handled exactly like you are told it will be. There’s a certain amount of props deserved for that.
Overall: 5.5 - While I can’t go as far as to say this is going to join the likes of other meta horror classics, I do think this is an enjoyable film and it’s one I would recommend watching. Genre fans will have plenty to like here.