The found footage subgenre refuses to die, with “Atrocious” arriving as one of the latest attempts to wring what must surely be the last drops of creativity from the tiring form. Written and directed by first timer Fernando Barredo Luna, the film has predictably been tagged as the ‘Spanish Paranormal Activity’, garnering a surprising amount of buzz and enjoying some success on the festival circuit, being one of the few horrors to screen at Sundance 2011.
Supposedly compiled from authentic home video footage in the usual manner, the film charts the final five days of the Quintanilla family, whose bodies were found in their isolated farmhouse near Stiges where they were spending the Easter holiday. The material reveals teenage brother and sister Christian and July investigating the local urban legend of The Girl of Garraf Woods by poking around a nearby labyrinth with their cameras. Their presence seems to stir up something sinister, and the two are soon experiencing strange and ghostly visions which may or may not be real.
Although the found footage subgenre has certainly thrown up a few gems over the last few years and probably still has room for a few more before it disappears into the ether, “Atrocious” is sadly not one of them. The film is definitely towards the bottom of the barrel, and even ardent fans of “Paranormal Activity”, “Blair Witch” and their many imitators are likely to struggle to find much to enjoy – mainly due to the fact that almost nothing happens during the entire running time. For the most part the film is made up of the two unlikeable protagonists wandering aimlessly around, with Luna seeming to be under the impression that the mere sight of the semi-picturesque hedge labyrinth is enough to make things atmospheric and creepy. Instead, his bafflingly stubborn refusal to show anything even remotely interesting results in an hour and fifteen minutes of painful tedium, made all the worse by the lack of a worthwhile payoff at the end. For the terminally curious, the film is available on region 2 DVD via Revolver Entertainment.
“Wreckage”, out now through Chelsea Films, at least tries to add something to the slasher formula through its setting, taking place in a scrap yard – full marks for imagination to director John Mallory Asher (“One Tree Hill”). Well, perhaps not, though the film does have the benefit of a decent cast of semi-recognisable faces as its cannon fodder, including Aaron Paul (“The Last House On The Left”), Scoot McNairy (“Monsters”), Cameron Richardson (“Harper’s Island”), Kelly Kruger (“Mysterious Skin”) and Mike Erwin (“Chaos Theory”).
The fun kicks off when a group of friends in a car break down on a remote rural road, and decide to search a nearby auto scrap yard for a new fan belt. Things soon get more complicated after an accident with a loaded gun leaves one of the girls seriously injured and in need of a hospital. Meanwhile, the local police are mobilising after being informed that a serial killer has escaped from prison and is lurking somewhere nearby, though after arriving at the scrap yard and finding everyone missing save one of the gang, it starts to look like foul play of a different kind might be afoot.
Although there’s quite obviously nothing new on show here or anything particularly artful, “Wreckage” does at least get most things right, and ticks the majority of the boxes needed for a successful slasher opus. Director Asher seems to know his stuff and handles the action confidently, with a decent pace, a reasonable script and a fair few gore scenes splattered throughout to keep fans happy. The production values and cast are certainly above average for this kind of thing, and this helps keep the film a few notches above other direct to DVD affairs, making it one of the better examples of its kind of late – whether or not this is really much of a recommendation is pretty much down to the viewer’s appetite.
BLOOD RUNS COLD
Chelsea Films serve up another slasher in the form of “Blood Runs Cold”, marking the debut of Sonny Laguna. The English language, Swedish film is a real horror indie, having apparently been shot for an amazing $5,000 US on a Canon 7D digital SLR camera, and harks back to the early days of John Carpenter with its air of snowy isolated menace.
The plot follows Winona, a musician who takes a trip back to her remote hometown outside Stockholm for a rest, hoping to find some inspiration for her new songs. With the snow falling heavily, she heads to the local bar, where she runs into an old boyfriend and a couple of his pals, and invites the back to the house. After spending the evening catching up and sinking a few drinks, everyone decides to stay over for the night, only to find themselves being knocked off one by one by a mysterious killer.
All things considered, “Blood Runs Cold” really is a pretty impressive achievement, as despite its miniscule budget the film looks better and more professional than most of its direct to DVD peers. Laguna is clearly a talented and genre savvy helmer, making great use of his resources to generate a pleasingly eerie atmosphere, and managing to work in some pretty reasonable frights and gore scenes. Although the film does still suffer from some of the usual pitfalls of the low budget genre, in particular some rather ropey acting and a few moments of awkward editing, it’s obvious that thought went into the script, and this effort certainly pays off, lifting it several notches above most other poverty row shockers. Entertaining, well made and even mildly shuddersome, whilst not quite strong enough to earn it break out appeal beyond low budget horror aficionados, it’s heartening indeed to see someone like Laguna proving that not all genre films made on the cheap need be dull found footage clones.
“Cannibal” is another piece of Euro-horror, of a slightly more ambitious kind. The French-Belgian film is the first feature from writer director Benjamin Viré, and despite its title is a dark shocker that aims for psychological terror rather than flesh tearing gore. The film, out shortly on DVD via Matchbox Films, has a strong cast headlined by debutant Helena Coppejans and award winning Belgian TV actor, Nicolas Gob, with support from Eric Godon (“The Pack”), Philippe Nahon (“The Pack”, “Switchblade Romance”) and Micky Molina (“Dark Habits”).
For the most part the film is a two person drama revolving around Gob as an agoraphobic loner who lives and hunts deep in the woods of the Belgian countryside. One day while out practising golf he finds a young woman lying unconscious and bleeding (Coppejans), who he takes home with him and cleans up. Deciding to call her Bianca after she proves less than forthcoming with details about herself, he lets her stay and soon finds himself increasingly attracted to her, even after she escapes one evening and he finds her having sex with a man who she proceeds to eat. Far from being turned off, he falls for her even harder, though their odd romance is threatened when her weird past returns with a violent vengeance.
“Cannibal” is the very definition of slow burn chills, gradually trying to work its way under the skin by focusing mainly on the deviant relationship between its two lead characters and the bizarre bond which keeps them together. Thanks to a decent, if economic script, and a healthy dose of ambiguity and leftfield weirdness, this actually works quite well and the film successfully holds the interest throughout, even if certain parts make little sense. Director Viré has a good eye for the creepiness inherent in the film’s primordial woodsy setting, and though things never get truly frightening, he does drum up some reasonably uncanny scenes. Whilst gore hounds will be disappointed, there are a few fairly shocking scenes scattered throughout, enough so to give the film the visceral punch it needs, and if anything it benefits from this restraint, remaining grounded and oddly believable. The film’s only real problem lies with its pacing, which is simply far too slow and leisurely, meaning that things frequently drag and at an hour and forty minutes feel distinctly overstretched. Still, a few ideas go a long way, and “Cannibal” is certainly worthwhile for patient genre fans after something a bit more thoughtful.