Sometimes you just can’t help making your way into the genre spotlight when a more traditional shooting technique applies, but for those making a movie within a movie, you’re throwing yourself into POV/found-footage territory and are essentially enabling all the horrors that come with it. These are some exampes of times when you really shouldn’t be picking up the movie camera.
WARNING: This list contains plot spoilers!
Everything is too good to be true.
In Ti West’s latest, Patrick (Kentucker Audley) travels out to Eden Parish to try to bring his sister (Amy Seimetz) home from a suspect sober-living community while his buddies Sam and Jake (A.J. Bowen and Joe Swanberg) come along for the ride to document the experience for their outlet, Vice. The community is warm and welcoming? Patrick’s sister insists it’s truly paradise? You’re granted unprecedented access to the man in charge? It really is too good to be true.
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The found-footage genre has come a long way since The Blair Witch Project back in 1999, or perhaps I should say since Cannibal Holocaust from 1980. But it was really Blair Witch that kicked off the filmmaking craze and made it accessible for moviegoers. That film, about a trio of film students who head out into the woods to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, arrived with the premise that the students went missing, but their footage was found. Thus, the found-footage genre (as its come to be known) was reinvented for the masses.
Why are you filming yourself?
After attempting to make my own mini-found-footage film while running through The Walking Dead Escape at San Diego Comic-Con, I can confirm that it’s absolutely impossible for someone to run from a witch or any kind of monster and still manage to shoot watchable footage. Your life vs. camera stability? I wonder which you would pick. But hey, this is the film industry we’re talking about — it’s okay to bend the believability rules a bit.
However, it’s not okay to 1) give a character a lame reason to be filming him or herself, or 2) offer absolutely no reason for a character to be filming him or herself. The documentary angle is generally a good play. It works in both Blair Witch and Troll Hunter. On the other hand, the excuse of needing to show people how something is really going down can be absurd. Cloverfield is lucky it’s so enthralling, otherwise I’d seriously be questioning Hud’s judgment. Then again, that concept does work a little better in REC and Quarantine. Something terrible is happening, but the people who are supposed to rush in and save the day are leaving victims to die in a nightmarish apartment building. Something isn’t right and the public has to know.
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