While I’m a fan of the old school horror anthology, the found footage genre isn’t something I’ve ever really enjoyed although some films work in spite of, rather than because of it. The whole thing peaked with [REC] and hasn’t ever justified it’s ongoing existence beyond that. But I digress, here we are presented with something which on the surface appears to be an amalgam of these two ideas, but it doesn’t really deliver either of them. In fact it doesn’t ever become a film of any genre at all. At best you might describe it as a clips compilation, and some of the material they use might almost fall under the category of short film; which is a shame when those individual sequences might have found purpose standing on their own. The sum total of all this is in fact without purpose, narrative or subtext which raises questions about why it exists at all.
An opening scene involves a man talking about video nasties, and how in his youth he came across a box of video tapes (including Beta!) containing what seemed to be adult films and perhaps real life footage. The claim that this sort of material is the ‘evolution of horror’ is a dubious proposition even before things get rolling, and the idea that poor quality filming equipment adds realism is also questionable. But this brief initial dialogue does little to offer real context or any sort of plot to the rest of the proceedings.
What follows is a series of short clips and scenes involving a mixture of gruesome moments and sinister goings-on with an assortment of filming styles and media being used. There are grainy film scenes, home videos complete with tracking errors and time codes, as well as digital footage which has actually been edited and colour corrected. Interspersed there are what appear to be brief glimpses of stock footage or news reels, as well as snippets of retro PSA style programmes. The lack of congruity is immediately apparent and the inconsistent length of each scene changes from one moment to the next. It’s very choppy in places while in others things are really drawn out beyond any sort of macabre entertainment value. The only real horror began to sink in when after 15 minutes it dawned on me that this was going to last for another 2 hours…
How I soon longed for the poorly made, padded out straight to video movies that barely meet the 90 minute mark. The content ranges from stalker videos to basement torture scenes, in various settings and languages, but any kind of novelty is gone in those first few minutes. Ultimately these are all as pointless as one another and any shock value is absent once the first scenes of murder, sex and drug use have passed. They do seem to have gone through a small checklist of what to include, so as well as bloody deaths and beatings there are moments that include self-harm, someone eating faeces, and a few instances of hardcore pornographic footage here and there. But the problem of all these grim vignettes coming in so fast remains, and without overarching themes or attempting a message it’s just horribly tedious and nothing more. Those TV clips talk about young minds becoming ‘hooked on depravity’ in what seems to be an attempt at making fun of the audience yet there is no other sense of self awareness to be found within the other scenes.
When identifiable filming techniques like actual acting and lighting are used there are brief glimpses of effort being utilized but the effect is minimal and the performances are mostly bad. A home movie style story about a family killing themselves thinking the Y2K problem will plunge the world into chaos and a faux YouTube show called ‘Two Girls One Victim’ fall into the ‘Nice Idea, Try Again’ category. I don’t think those sort of video uploads have a ‘stream timeout’ message when they end… however if they were 15 minutes long and there were only 5 or 6 chapters here it could have worked. Another involves a couple being interviewed about their missing daughter, and when a mystery DVD arrives showing her being mutilated they all sit around and watch it, and so does the interviewer who keeps filming! This segment is unintentionally amusing but for the most part this is just repetitive death and misery.
Recurring scenes are a big problem when they don’t have a recurring plot to revisit … besides another murder. What a twist. The rest is all so similar in nature that it’s even more redundant. Some attempts are made to make a few of these appear to be shocking ‘police evidence’ but when the same childish yellow font is pasted across the screen in more than one it’s just laughable, particularly when the ‘crime’ text is so badly written. With all the attempts to make this gritty and disturbing it’s just a boring slog that goes on forever. They might want us to ask the question could this be real? But the only one on my mind is who cares?