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When I first stumbled across the trailer for writer/director Christos Petropoulos’ creepy “lost footage” flick “Subconscious”, I was hesitant to watch the clip. After my body’s violent physical rejection of Oren Peli’s surprisingly successful low-budget bore “Paranormal Activity” and Olatunde Osunsanmi’s monumentally lame “The Fourth Kind”, I wasn’t particularly excited to watch another movie based on a “true” story. And while the trailer for Petropoulos’ like-minded outing did manage to startle me on more than one occasion, I was a little apprehensive to give the picture the time of day. After all, what more could you possibly do with the format outside of rehashing everything we’ve already seen?
“Subconscious”, though certainly not without its faults, manages to take this impossibly tired formula — specifically, a person with a hand-held camera experiencing a series of increasingly creepy scenarios — and deliver a story that’s original, though-provoking, and thoroughly unnerving. What’s more, the film and its characters are presented in a very believable manner; Petropoulos has taken a very convincing amateur documentary and fashioned the footage into a narratively-sound motion picture, a feat that the aforementioned offenders simply did not accomplish. It’s amazing what sympathetic characters, solid direction, and a fair amount of suspense can accomplish.
After a short statement that boldly proclaims the film to be the property of the Greek police department, the story quickly gets underway. We’re soon introduced to Fanis, a twenty-something pretty boy who suffers from a particularly distressing nightmare that always seems to involve an intensely creepy shrine of unknown origin. He firmly believes that unraveling the mystery behind the dream will effectively dismantle these horrifying vision, and promptly sets out on a quest to secure what’s left of his insanity. This spooky adventure also includes a strange girl Fanis meets on the internet, a long car ride across the Greek countryside, and a secluded house in the middle of nowhere.
Needless to say, something extremely dreadful befalls poor Fanis and his skinny blonde companion during this questionable excursion into the foreboding countryside. The specifics are a little muddled at first, especially considering we’re not sure how this mysterious Serbian girl is connected to Fanis’ expedition or why he feels the need to take her to the outskirts of civilization. However, what may initially appear to be colossal leaps in logic are eventually — and intelligently — explained away through the use of an unexpected third reel plot twist. And while the story’s conclusion may seem somewhat abrupt and unresolved, keen viewers who were paying attention the entire time should understand what Petropoulos was trying to achieve.
There were a few choice moments during “Subconscious” that genuinely scared me, one of which involved nothing more than a shower curtain and an extreme amount of tension. To be perfectly honest, I can’t recall the last time a shower curtain provoked such a fearful response in me, especially while watching a horror movie. This, I think, is a testament to Petropoulos’ ability to generate palpable suspense, an element that is crucial to the picture’s success. After all, without it, all you’ve got is home video footage of someone noodling around the woods with a skinny blonde girl who likes to hide behind trees. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you can withstand the handful of minor technical goofs, a few overlong sequences of breathtaking scenery, and a conclusion that requires a fair amount of backtracking, “Subconscious” should provide more than a few moments of bowel-churning chills to those in search of something off the beaten path. It’s certainly one of the strongest “lost footage” films I’ve seen recently, reinforcing my belief that resourceful directors with fertile imaginations will continue to deliver original content using this intriguing formula. With very little money, a small cast, and some superb direction, Petropoulos has done wonders, of which he should be extremely proud. “Subconscious” might not be the slickest cinematic minnow in the school, but it’s certainly the most ambitious. All in all, a job very well done.
Christos Petropoulos (director) / Christos Petropoulos (screenplay)
CAST: Danijela Radovanovic … Natalie
Fanis Katrivesis … Fanis