Tag Archives: found footage

Blair Witch

mv5bmji0nteymja3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5otu4ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006481000_al_Did you know that The Blair Witch Project came out seventeen years ago? That is a long time! And yet, here we are with a sequel[1]. And, uh… that’s kind of all I have? Which is bad. But the thing is, you saw the first one, right? Blair Witch is that movie, seventeen years later. Is there a documentary? Yep. Do they go into the woods? You betcha! Are there weird stick figures and creepy little piles of rocks? I think you know.

I mean, this is how you make a horror movie sequel. Same people[2], same plot. (This, I maintain, is why people didn’t like the other sequel. Different people, different plot. Also: Halloween 3.) But then they did the other thing that good horror movie sequels manage, which is to bring in more information and make things make more sense than they did before. So, long story short: if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you hated the first one (which I know a lot of people did, especially people who get motion sickness), you will still hate this one. So, y’know. Check in with the 1999 version of you and see what’s up.

[1] Technically, there was also a sequel sixteen years ago, but a) a lot of people incorrectly dislike it and b) more relevantly, this sequel ignores the one from 2000, so I will too.
[2] Okay, it’s Heather’s younger brother, who always wanted to know what happened to her, but same family basically counts as same people.


You ever see Akira? I haven’t, but I went to see Chronicle on the strength of it completely reminding me of the version of Akira that’s in my head. That worked out pretty well for me. See, there’s this disaffected teen with a camera, and he wanders around filming everything, like disaffected teens with cameras in movies do. (Well, okay, also like skeptical husbands and best friends and film students and, okay, pretty much anyone in the last 15 years who has ever had a camera in a movie.) And he even meets a blogger chick with her own camera at a party, but before you have time to realize how tragically underused she’s going to be, even before he gets a chance to consider being into her, she starts flirting with his cousin instead.

Which doesn’t really leave a lot of conflict, just 80 minutes of emo misery, right? Well, no, but only because he and his cousin and his cousin’s class president friend find a hole in the ground that leads to a glowing macguffin that gives them all, y’know, powers. And then they start figuring out how to use their powers, and how to use their powers to change their lives. And then, you know, other things happen. Good psychology, good superheroing, good primary cast, mediocre supporting cast (with one infuriating exception), really good use of multiple cameras (considering the context), plus also it’s set in Seattle, if that has any relevance.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s a pretty good one, and considering this is February? It’s close to great after all.

Quarantine (2008)

There is an extent to which horror movies are in a rut. They mostly fall into three types right now: Japanese horror in which ghosts of small children with blank faces, badly maintained hair, and black eyes rush out of closets or wells or otherwise enclosed spaces to destroy your soul; torture films in which reasonless men capture vacationing teens and gradually vivisect them, usually without consequence and with no more than one survivor; and apocalypse horror in which some event has turned the world (or our diseased and dead brethren and sistren) against us. Frequently, these types will borrow tropes back and forth from each other. And of course there are movies coming out that play against these types, such as the Saw films. But the rut is visibly there now, over a decade beyond when Scream first invented the post-modern horror film, pulling the genre back from the brink of irrelevance.

The good news, though, is that the rut is nowhere near played out, and still provides far better quality than at any point since the 1970s.[1] If anything, the cross-pollination between the types is improving things and keeping no one rut from getting all that deep. All of which is the long way around to mentioning that I saw Quarantine last week, I suppose, but the state of the genre is often on my mind as I think about what I have to say in these reviews. It’s undeniable that I’m excited to be seeing so much good quality coming out after I spent the ’90s in a video store wasteland being mocked mercilessly by all the people around me who weren’t able to see the potential I was so certain was there.

But, yeah, Quarantine, which as it turns out snagged tropes from across both aisles, was mostly a cross between the apocalypse type and a less common but very influential type I haven’t got around to mentioning yet, the camera-is-a-character type. Y’know, Blair Witch or Cloverfield. A plucky local-market TV reporter[2] is on overnight assignment in a fire station when a 911 comes in about a woman screaming and otherwise behaving bizarrely in an apartment building. Fire and police are dispatched, with the camera doing ride-along duty, to dicover all the inhabitants milling around, confused over the late night and the fuss. And just when they realize that things might be more dire than a mere disoriented elderly woman can account for, they also discover that the entire building has been sealed off, with nobody allowed to enter or exit upon threat of lethal force. And then the phones are jammed. And then, things start to go horribly wrong.

The one downside I should mention is that Quaratine is far more interested in the ride than the destination. This doesn’t really bother me much, because the confusion, sense of betrayal, and mounting-terror-as-character-study of the handful of people who are more than cardboard cutouts are more than enough to keep me happy. And although the movie eventually provides something akin to answers, that move is very cursory and unlikely to satisfy anyone who needs a Reason behind Events.

Anyway, I guess it’s like I said back at the beginning. This is well-trodden ground, and it has nothing much new to offer. But what it offers is certainly entertaining and still manages to pull in enough disparate elements to not feel copied, unlike the bad days of the ’80s that nearly killed the genre in the first place. Although I could wish someone had handed the reporter chick a paper bag at some point, or possibly a calming slap. ‘Cause there is a number of minutes of hyperventilating that is impossible to listen to, regardless of how realistic the action might be. I’m not sure what that number is, and it might vary from person to person. But it is at least two minutes shorter than the number portrayed by this otherwise delightful little film.

[1] Which, okay, sounds unimpressive, but then again movies in general haven’t been around all that long, so calling this the Silver Age of horror to the Golden Age of the ’70s really isn’t such faint praise as it might look at first glance.
[2] Who you hopefully know as Deb Morgan from Dexter.


Then, earlier this week I saw Cloverfield, which will mean that I’m finally caught up. So that’s awesome. As for the awesomeness of the movie… well, it turns out it wasn’t really that kind of movie, and I think that’s what made it work so well. When you see Independence Day or Godzilla, to name a couple of other times New York has been destroyed, the focus of the film is on the people who are out there saving the day, and they’re big and heroic (or occasionally dorky and heroic) and the movie is about them saving the day. Cloverfield, contrariwise, is about us. Any of the regular people who, when New York starts falling apart around them, are basically fucked. And they know they are, but the thing about being human is you still do everything in your power to survive, even when there’s no hope. And sometimes there are still amazing feats and there are still small moments of heroism, and that’s okay because another thing about being human is that every so often you surpass your limits.

I’m going to leave plot out of it, I think, because except for that something is attacking New York and there’s a dude who has a video camera[1], you don’t really need to know anything else and it might take away from the impact. And, okay, there’s the Blair Witch comparison: sure enough, if you have motion-sickness problems, this will probably not be the movie for you. People have to run a lot, which makes for shaky camerawork. But if you can get past that, the rest of the film is equal parts cool / scary things happening amid explosions and gripping human drama, or occasionally melodrama. But let’s be honest, that’s just as real a part of the human experience as the rest of it. Plus it subscribes to the first rule of drive-in cinema: anyone can die, at any moment.[2]

[1] And pretty much everyone who has seen a movie preview somewhere in the past six months knows this much already.
[2] There are just so very many reasons I liked this movie.