Director: Steven DeGennaro
Cast: Carter Roy, Alena von Stroheim, Chris O’Brien
Watch Found Footage 3D online in the UK: Shudder UK
Found footage. Those two words are enough to leave horror fans groaning at the thought of familiar, tedious cliches in films where nobody really explains why somebody keeps holding the camera, even when their lives are in danger. But a found footage movie in 3D? Could that gimmick alone be enough to breathe some fresh novelty into this tired sub-genre?
That’s what Derek (Carter Roy), hopes, as he dreams up his new feature film – and promptly asks his younger brother, Mark (Chris O’Brien), to capture the making of the movie. A film about a film? It’s precisely the kind of self-aware premise that made Wes Craven’s Scream such a hoot back in the 1990s, and Found Footage 3D sits alongside the best post-modern horrors, managing to poke fun at tropes and genuinely scare without skipping a beat.
DeGennaro, who is a sound veteran, does an impeccable job of creating a convincing on-set environment, from the background hustle and bustle to the vaguely awkward camerawork, as the Spectre of Death 3D’s director (Tom Saporito) and Mark squish into each shot. It goes hand in hand with the superbly judged script, which clearly vents all of the frustrations that DeGennaro has with lazy horror films, from the usual who’s-holding-the-camera question to the proliferation of easy jump scares. The film expertly manages to knock down all of the obvious formulaic touches, but still mine them for tension and surprises: an argument between Derek and lead actress Amy (Alena von Stroheim) sees the troubled couple bicker about their lack of convincing romantic chemistry, while simultaneously selling their relationship history.
“You can’t fake being in love with me for one scene?” she complains. “I did it for four years,” he shoots back, bitterly. The movie is full of such smartly performed exchanges, as everyone from production assistant Lily (Jessica Perrin) to veteran tech guy Carl (Scott Allen Parry) help to subvert the obvious to set up the unexpected – a technique that the film repeats over and over, without ever getting stale.
The rules of the genre are what dictate the build-up and climax, partly because the characters know they must and partly because the genre seems to take control over the project the more shooting continues. That’s courtesy of some nifty special effects, which combine both computer monitors and stray cameras with a genuine need to keep the footage rolling: by the end, you’ll be looking all over the screen with jittery nerves, while still laughing at the knowing jokes (watch out for a fantastic cameo from talented critic Scott Weinberg) and the reaction of Carl to everything weird that goes on.
The result is a horror movie that’s both funny and surprisingly frightening, a balance that’s maintained beautifully right up until the end credits. It’s a found footage movie that manages that rare feat of bringing the subgenre to new life, matching the novel thrills of the first Paranormal Activity movie or the best of Spain’s REC franchise. The 3D’s not bad either.
Found Footage 3D is available exclusively (in both 2D and 3D) on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.