It takes a brave-ass movie to nod to both 3D and found footage (two things movie fans at large, never mind horror aficionados in particular, are utterly sick of) in its title. Even braver to favourably compare itself to both Scream and The Blair Witch Project, two of the most successful and beloved genre movies in history. And yet, Found Footage 3D somehow manages not just to live up to, but supersede, its own self-imposed expectations.
The setup is simple; a group of friends wish to make a horror movie that hasn’t ever been done before, in an effort to strike gold at the box office. They land on doing one found footage style, in 3D. Before they even reach the requisite cabin in the woods, we’re treated to sharp, well-judged and enjoyably tongue in cheek back-and-forth banter about the very nature of making a found footage movie in the first place and why the hell it would even be captured in 3D (“He’s a 3D enthusiast!” “That’s not a thing!”).
What seems, on the surface, to be little more than an irritating, headache-inducing gimmick actually affords the flick some much-needed depth. To-camera interviews (for the behind-the-scenes doc on the making of the film within the film – keep up) are beautifully captured outdoors, and for all the messing around with the visual effects, the format actually allows for some decent and, crucially, different movements along the way.
Found footage is an infuriating sub-genre in itself because when it works, as with recent entries Willow Creek, The Borderlands or The Den, it really works. But when it doesn’t, as with almost every other movie over the seventeen years since Blair Witch, it’s insufferable. Found Footage 3D establishes itself as a meta-horror comedy from the outset, but it’s still interested in being a decent found footage movie in its own right. And, thankfully, in spite of the supremely well-judged comedic moments, it manages to be frequently frightening.
The scares, which are mostly reserved for its final act, are well-orchestrated and expertly handled by a crowd who spent a whopping four years bringing this project to fruition – and it shows. Even though it was reportedly shot in just fifteen days, the characters feel lived in and instantly recognisable, from wannabe actor-writer-director Derek (a game Carter Roy) to sick-of-it-all sound man Carl (scene-stealer Scott Allen Perry, gifted most of the film’s best quips).
And what of the rumoured cameo from producer Scott Weinberg? Not only does his brilliantly self-effacing turn threaten to steal the whole show, but Weinberg earns major horror cred for sending himself up in the most gloriously horrifying fashion imaginable. He’ll probably get the biggest laugh, too, not least because he’s so beloved by genre fans, which in a movie of big laughs is no small feat.
Overall, though, Found Footage 3D is just a terrifically funny, brilliantly meta horror-comedy that manages to somehow hit all the beats of a great found footage movie, too. It’s difficult to believe this is writer/director Steven DeGennaro’s debut feature, given how utterly self-assured and well-considered it is, but it certainly spells great things to come for him.
The deft handling of the material is incredibly impressive, from a brilliantly judged sequence involving a couple of old dudes sitting on a porch, who won’t cooperate with filming, to a splattery death, to that all-important final scare and even the creature itself, an all-black spectre that is wonderfully realised and endlessly spooky. One almost wishes the movie within the movie (the hilariously-titled Spectre Of Death 3D) was real, as it’d likely make for a great double bill.
It’s rare for a movie like Found Footage 3D to work quite as well as it does. As a clever commentary on found footage and the perils of low budget film-making, it’s hugely entertaining. As a straight found footage horror movie, it’s creepy and scary and fun. The two combined are pure genius, up there with the best of the best in modern horror-comedy, from Tucker And Dale Vs Evil to What We Do In The Shadows.
Hell, give it time and we might just be celebrating Found Footage 3D in the same breath as Scream and The Blair Witch Project for real.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Steven DeGennaro
Writer(s): Steven DeGennaro
Stars: Carter Roy, Scott Allen Perry, Alena von Stroheim, Scott Weinberg
Studio/ Production Co: FF3D
Length: 108 minutes
Sub-Genre: Found footage, horror-comedy