I’ve been a defender of found footage for years. Where many filmgoers have written off this subgenre as a cheap gimmick, I believe it has been and can still be a unique way to tell a story. I won’t deny there’s been a lot of filmmakers and studios that have exploited the lower production costs of found footage. Like, did anyone who worked on The Gallows actually give a shit about the end product? And don’t get me started on The Devil Inside. What a lot of found footage detractors overlook is that a great found footage movie is great because it finds a way in which it would only ever work as a found footage film.
Take the recent films Creep and Creep 2 from Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass. The idea of just two people, one insane, out in the sticks with a camera. There’s an intimacy there that would be lost if the film had been shot like a conventional narrative. Found footage can also make special effects feel more grounded and more spectacular in films like Chronicle or Trollhunter. If you’re looking for other great found footage movies here are some of my favorites:
Be My Cat: A Film for Anne
Man Bites Dog
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
The Last Exorcism
All of those films find unique ways to utilize the medium. Today’s film, Found Footage 3D isn’t quite there. It’s close to something, something very clever. Yet in paying homage or by mocking found footage (I can’t always tell) it falls into the very tropes that turn people off of this kind of filmmaking. Though is that intentional? Let’s try and piece this whole thing together.
Found Footage 3D is about a group of Texas-based filmmakers heading out into the middle of nowhere to make a found-footage horror movie. Derek (Carter Roy) is the star and creative force behind the upcoming found footage film “Spectre of Death”. Andrew (Tom Saporito) is the film’s director who’s concerned the film they are about to make will end up as another cheap, cliche, pile of dreck. But Derek has an ace up his sleeve. It’s going to be the first found footage film shot on 3D. It’s a funny reveal, especially as the characters debate the logic of a man filming home movies on a 3D camera with his wife on a vacation in the woods. This back and forth conversation on what the film is or what it should be is the most interesting part of the movie. The characters are funny and likable and watching their process is an interesting insight into the world of zero budget filmmaking.
The problem with FF3D is as the film gets more into making the film and less about talking about it the film becomes more and more cliche. Jump scares and a real haunting start to hang over the production. There are lots of scenes of “What was that in the woods?” and overlooking footage only to discover entities hiding in the background. I imagine watching this portion of the film in 3D makes it far more entertaining. This is a feature that Shudder does include and when you consider this was how the film was meant to be seen you can’t help but feel you’re getting a lesser experience watching it any other way. For that, I apologize.
That being said I still believe the film would benefit from a more referential and comedic tone from beginning to end. Because the scares are never that scary and the mystery is never that interesting. Yet I admire this film for being the first of its kind. Regardless of how it all turned out any artist that tries something new should be applauded. It takes a lot of courage to make a movie called Found Footage 3D and not look like an idiot. This is a respectable outing and a well made found footage movie. Though if you’re someone who gets sick from watching shaky cam, get ready to vomit in another dimension.