Mini-Reviews: Found Footage Edition – “No, sir. I didn’t like it!”

Aliens: Zone of Silence (2017) A young woman (Sarah Hester) ventures into a section of Mexican desert known as the “Zone of Silence,” a UFO hotspot where her brother was last seen before mysteriously vanishing. Written and directed by Hollywood visual FX producer Andy Fowler, Zone of Silence is essentially Blair Witch with aliens, but the end result isn’t quite worth the long, tedious build up. C 

Atrocious (2010) While on vacation in a small seaside town with their parents, two teens investigate a local urban legend of a ghost that will only appear to someone after they get lost in the nearby woods. When things start to go bump in the night, the teens dig deeper and discover the sinister truth. Coming in off the heels of REC, this Spanish POV chiller manages to create a creepy atmosphere and a few chills, but it takes way too long for anything truly interesting to happen and by the time the truth is revealed it comes off as moot. C

Dark Attachment (2017) A father and son come to believe their home is haunted and call upon the help of a kooky medium (Madam Della) to cleanse their house. A pathetic and lazy attempt at mimicking Paranormal Activity (it makes Paranormal Entity look like The Exorcist), this features zero story structure, incompetent direction – and it took four people: Hunter and Jerry Burkhead, Della, and Dennis Miller, Jr. – and rock bottom FX (watch out for that fishing line!). Ed Wood made better films than this! F

Ghoul (2015) Atmospheric but empty found footage about a small group of American filmmakers doing a documentary on a deceased Ukrainian cannibal and, as a joke, ask a medium to invoke his spirit but accidentally summon something far more sinister. Good acting and a sense of impending doom help the movie overcome its lack of any real scares and the always annoying FF trope of characters who, when in doubt, endlessly scream at each other. Only the final ten minutes has any real flare to it. C

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) A second-rate geek show of shoddy filmmaking, this Saw reject is so desperate to shock you that it forgets to tell a compelling story. The movie is essentially just a series of “disturbing” scenes of torture and violence wrapped in a weak police investigation plot, in which we’re forced to watch endless interviews with some of the hammiest actors alive – I’ve seen more convincing acting in school plays. Tacky, tasteless, and dull. D

Unknown Visitor (2021) A 50-minute short movie seen entirely through the fish lens camera of a doorbell security system, in which a couple are receiving nightly visitations from a strange woman. What could have been an interesting idea for a much shorter YouTube video is stretched thin with cardboard characters and cockamamie plot twists. C


The Strangers (2008) An annoying couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) returning home late at night from a wedding are terrorized by three masked sociopaths who try to get inside their house. Writer-director Bryan Bertino does a good job at building tension within the first 30 minutes, but it unfortunately escalates into a nonsensical game of cat-and-mouse. It’s all executed handsomely and filled with gimmicky thrills, but, you can’t help feel as if you’ve been cheated by a pro. C+

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) A family staying at a relative’s trailer park fight to the death against the three masked psychos from the 2008 film in this surprisingly good sequel. The action moves at a brisk pace and director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) frames a lot of the movie with an eye on suspense. Also, unlike the lazy characters from the first movie, the ones here are injected with energy and don’t spend the whole movie crying in a corner. Despite a bit too many plot conveniences, this does a good job at keeping you on the edge of your seat up until the fiery climax. B


Real Cases of Shadow People: The Sarah McCormick Story (2019) Overlong found footage movie about three friends who disappeared while making a documentary on the subject of shadow people. There’s some interesting interviews with relatives of people who’re seemingly abducted by shadow people, and some creepy moments during the climax, but way too much time is spent on the three filmmakers goofing around and showing just how thin the plot of this lifeless exercise is. C

June 9 (2008) Set in 1999, this features a group of bored teens who film themselves taking numerous trips over the course of a week to a nearby town that’s supposedly cursed by a series of supernatural incidents. A surprisingly enjoyable and authentic found footage chiller with realistic characters and a genuine ’90s feel, this runs a bit long but is worth it for the bonkers, Ten Thousand Maniacs-like ending. B

Shopping Tour (2012) Russian found footage flick about a mother and her teenage son who while on a shopping trip to Finland are locked inside a giant department store and attacked by cannibals. More of a satire, this has some fun, Dawn of the Dead-like moments but uninteresting characters and a jokey focus on Russian/Finnish relations might alienate some. Also, we need to do something about these annoying, inconclusive endings. C


Saint Maud (2020) A victim of false advertising, this was marketed as some kind of supernatural horror film in the vein of Hereditary but is instead a psychological character study about a young nurse (Morfydd Clark) who, after experiencing a traumatic event, slowly downward spirals into an unhinged mental state. Symbolism and suggestion are the real “horrors” of the movie, with the screenplay (by director Rose Glass) relying a bit too much on the title character’s uneven personality and backstory, which we only get glimpses of. Good acting, especially from Jennifer Ehle, but there just isn’t a whole lot of meat on these bones. C

The Cave (2005) Fun monster romp about a group of spelunkers who run into subterranean creatures while investigating a series of uncharted caves underneath the Carpathian mountains. Released the same year as the The Descent and although not as good, or as scary, this features more elaborate make-up FX and some impressive action set pieces, with elements borrowed from Pitch Black and Aliens. B

The Witch (2015) A brooding atmosphere drenches this intense psychological horror fable about a religious 17th century family outcast by their community and forced to settle on their own isolated farm in the woods. When their youngest disappears, and the eldest son (Harvey Scrimshaw) begins showing signs of possession, the family begin to suspect a witch is in their midst. Director and writer Robert Eggers ignores convention and delivers an authentic account of farm life in the 1600s, putting the family’s trials and tribulations first, with excellent performances from Scrimshaw, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, and especially Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter. The witch antics are just bonus material, and it all leads to a knockout ending. A


Urban Legend (1998) One of the better post-Scream horror offerings with enjoyable shades of ’80s slasher tropes about a college tormented by a hooded ax killer who uses famous urban legends as their modus operandi. Good characters and excellent atmospherics help heighten this above its Abercrombie good looks and a majorly goofy red herring in the form of Robert Englund hamming it up as the mysterious professor of – yup – urban legends. Although not nearly as gory as it could be this is still a thoroughly enjoyable flick. B

Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) Decent sequel goes meta (not unlike Scream 3) with several film school students making a class project about the killings from the first movie (titled Urban Legends) while being stalked by a psychopath wearing a fencing mask. This lacks the pacing and energy of the first movie, and there’s a cockamamie subplot involving a dead character’s twin, but it has enough spunk and humor to keep it moving to its goofy climax. Don’t shut off the movie too soon or you’ll miss the surprise cameo at the end complete with the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. B