Found focuses on Marty, a seemingly normal fifth grader. He excels in school and stays out of trouble. But beneath the surface, there are a series of problems that are causing him to slowly unravel. His parents don’t understand him, his classmates relentlessly bully him, and every day, Marty is tormented by the knowledge that his older brother is a serial killer who keeps a severed head in a bowling bag. The film begins as a drama about the day-to-day struggles of growing up and ultimately becomes a horrifying and unpredictable bloodbath.
The cast and creative team behind Found are both comprised of a lot of newcomers. Actors Alex Kogin, Ethan Philbeck, and Gavin Brown all make their feature film debut in this flick. And the film is helmed by first time director Scott Schirmer. It is co-written by Schirmer and Todd Rigney. The pair adapted the screenplay from a novel penned by Rigney.
The collective lack of experience works both for and against the picture. The actors’ inexperience actually lends a raw quality to the production that makes the film feel more believable at times. And Schirmer’s lack of time behind the camera probably prompted him to take certain risks that one would not see a seasoned director take – some of them pay off.
I took three days to think about Found after watching it. I wanted to let it sink in and give myself a chance to process it before providing a critique. There are parts of the film that I really enjoyed and others that surpass the point of decency and delve into an uncomfortable place. Uncomfortable isn’t bad but when it appears to have been done for the sake of shock value, a level of credibility is lost.
The film starts with an interesting premise and does a reasonable job in its portrayal of Marty. He is painted as an outsider that is misunderstood by his classmates, treated badly by his parents, and longs for approval from his older brother. It should be easy for a lot of horror fans to identify with his plight as we don’t always fit neatly into the mainstream. Actor Gavin Brown is pretty convincingly in the way that he brings the character to life.
Ethan Philbeck is also quite good as Steve. He effectively captures the tormented nature of the character and keenly conveys Steve’s downward spiral into total psychopathy as the film progresses.
The picture goes off the rails a bit in the third act. Marty’s brother Steve sets off on a retribution killing spree and the taste level with which certain scenes in that segment of the film are executed is questionable. I vehemently support artistic expression and I stand behind Scott Schirmer’s right to bring his vision to life in any way he sees fit. But I think that when delving into mortifying subject matter, it doesn’t necessarily have to be done by beating the viewer over the head with sexually explicit imagery and shouldn’t ever be done for shock value – which seemed the case here. One scene in particular leaps right over a series of taste boundaries. From a personal standpoint, I firmly believe that Schirmer has a right to express his creative vision but from a critical standpoint, I think one must consider if a particularly gratuitous display will add to or take away from a film. And in this case, it took away from the picture.
My other primary complaint with this feature is that there are some noticeable continuity issues. The film takes place in the height of the VHS era – presumably in the mid ’80s. But there are film poster from the ’90s on Steve’s wall and the characters drive cars that are no more than 15 years old. I can sympathize with the challenges of low budget filmmaking and I think that, for the most part, the film does a lot with its budget but I couldn’t help but notice some glaringly obvious gaps in logic.
This is a flick that you will have to see for yourself and make up your own mind on. I can’t totally recommend for or against it. There are parts of the film that I very much appreciated and that showed promise but other aspects that I wasn’t entirely sold on. Found will hit DVD on September 23, 2014.
Director(s): Scott Schirmer
Writer(s): Scott Schirmer, Todd Rigney
Release: September 23, 2014
Studio/ Production Co: XLrator Media
Budget: $8,000 (Estimated)
Length: 103 Minutes