My notes on Found Footage 3D
Producer-writer-actor Derek Mitchell (Carter Roy) browbeats director Thomas (Chris O’Brien) into shooting Spectre of Death, a derivative found footage horror film, in 3D – simply because it would be a first, free-associating that his screen character is a 3D enthusiast who shoots home video in stereoscope and even tapes two Go-Pro cameras together on top of the fridge to add dimension to surveillance inserts. Mitchell co-stars in the film with his estranged wife Amy (Alena von Stroheim), because he signed a contract before they split. Shooting at the proverbial cabin in the woods, the crew includes short-tempered sound man Carl (Scott Allen Perry) and horror fan PA Lily (Jessica Perrin). The key player is Derek’s brother Mark (Chris O’Brien), who handles the B-roll (in 3D, of course) for the ‘making of’ documentary (which itself becomes found footage).
An exercise in Quaker oat-box metafiction, this pokes fun at particular failings of the found footage genre (including a dig at the they-keep-filming-because-they-need-the-light gambit of Hollow) and questions why anyone would want to tread the Blair Witch Project path yet again. An argument about Derek’s preference for CGI over practical effects skips past objection ‘but we can’t afford good CGI’ and when the spook shows up, it looks more like a black blur than a monster – the reason given in the context of this film for cameras rolling even as chaos descends is that the spectre (‘what is this – a British film?’) appears only on the recorded image, so characters can see it coming if they keep looking at the monitor.
Writer-director Steven DeGennaro opts to deliver the Scream of found footage – god help us, but someone will do the Scary Movie eventually – by sticking close to rules laid out in debates about the form (‘everybody dies’) and staging effective jump scares (a falling shovel) even as characters bicker about whether the tactic is cheap or not. Fearnet.com critic Scott Weinberg appears as himself, though it’s not until his exit moment that much is made of his in-joke cameo as gruesome (and seemingly practical) effects start to litter the cabin. The usual paranormal persecution shenanigans play out, with personal drama decently sketched in as Mark (of necessity, the least-seen character) is protective (if slightly creepily) towards Amy as she seems to be drawn back into a relationship with the obnoxious Derek and pros Thomas and Carl complaining about their producer’s single-minded, unethical commitment to the doomed project.