Written & Directed by Dominic Perez
A funny thing happened last week. A small manilla envelope arrived in the mail, sandwiched between the latest issue of Wizard and the credit card bill. My wife, immediately noticing that the return address belonged to the U.S. Department of Justice, was understandably concerned, asking herself "What the hell has he gotten himself into now?"
Opening the mysterious envelope, I found a very official looking form letter from the above government entity, asking for my assistance in locating five missing persons. Enclosed was a DVD--evidence, really--containing footage of said individuals from their last known whereabouts. Being a good patriot, and an even better couch potato, I plopped ass in front of the television first thing this morning and began my stationary investigation.
If anyone was going to find these poor bastards while eating a bowl of Cocoa Krispies, it was gonna be me!
Five college-agers are en route to a remote country house to celebrate a birthday with the usual fare--cake, booze, and drunken, tittering jack-assery. While driving, they fall victim to a bit of passive-aggressive road rage from a mysterious someone or someones in an equally-mysterious van. Right off the bat--with the fact that the driver of the other vehicle is never seen, and no matter where our characters go, the van seems to find them--things are relatively tense. The first twenty minutes could be compared to a POV Joy Ride, only with real people instead of pretty plastic ones.
They eventually make it safely to the house, and in what is perhaps a nod to the "found footage" films that came before, takes a brief left turn into Blair Witch territory when the five get themselves good and lost in the woods. There was plenty of virgin snow on the ground, so why they didn't just follow their footsteps back to the house I can't tell you, but that's a minor query at best. In fact, you'll soon forget about it completely, because by the time they find their way out of the trees, it's only a short jaunt before the real horror begins. Remember The Strangers? It's a lot like that, only you feel more like an unwilling participant...not just a guilty watcher.
The entirety of the movie is shot from first person perspective, meaning that we only know what the characters know. We're exposed to the situation just as they are, through the camera lens in manic bursts that aren't always clear. When done improperly, that's the biggest weakness of these sort of films. When done right, that's the greatest strength.
And this one does it right.
Granted, like others who have seen this movie, I was a bit thrown off by the creepy musical score that cropped up on occasion. As this was supposed to be "found footage", added effects like that only defeat the illusion. However, I forgave this quite quickly as it really served to ratchet up the tension. And besides, upon viewing the ending, I think I could explain that away logically without compromising the story. I can't go into that here, though, without giving away too much. In fact, quite a few of my thoughts and comments have already had to be cropped from this review, as it's best if you go into this movie fresh. Maybe sometime later, after more people have seen this fine little film, I'll revisit it for more in depth commentary. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and see it for yourself.
Was it scary? Well, let's put it this way: I watched it in the safety of my own home, in broad daylight, and it creeped the hell out of me. There aren't all that many movies that could lay claim to that.
Visit the official website.