Found Footage: Char Man, Home Movie, and The Pyramid

Char Man – 2019, US, 85m. Director: Kurt Ela, Kip Tribble. Streaming: Tubi

Home Movie – 2008, US, 77m. Director: Christopher Denham. Streaming: Tubi

The Pyramid – 2014, Morocco/US, 88m. Director: Grégory Levasseur. Streaming: Max

CHAR MAN (2019) Looking to make a splash in the world of low-budget documentaries, three friends and wannabe filmmakers venture into the wilds of Southern California to film a semi-serious documentary on an urban legend about the so-called Ojai Vampire. The trio’s obviously amateurish skill level takes its toll when none of the men can seem to form a coherent idea about what exactly the movie should focus on. That is until they interview an Ojai historian (Jeff Kober) who informs them of an even better local legend: the Char Man, a sinister name given to a resident who decades earlier murdered his father and was savagely burned in a wildfire. The legend is if you call out for help when you’re in the Char Man’s woods, he’ll come for you. Despite this being the umpteenth movie dealing with a very similar story of woodsy supernatural vengeance, Char Man works (for the most part) thanks to likable characters and a sense of humor. The film’s unsettling aspects largely play out in the mythology surrounding the legend, but the movie as a whole is never truly scary. Still, this is a harmless bit of low-fi, found footage fun for hardcore fans. B

HOME MOVIE (2008) The lives of the parents of a pair of mischievous twins begins to come undone when the siblings dial their inappropriate behavior up a notch. The boy, Jack (Austin Williams), throws dinner plates around, while his sister, Emily (Amber Joy Williams), kills a frog in a vice. None of this is particularly interesting, or surprising, to the viewer since the two children are presented as oddballs the second the film opens. The father (Adrian Pasdar), a minster, is too busy practicing his sermons on-camera—and generally acting like a buffoon—to notice the children’s behavior, while the mother (Cady McClain), despite being a child psychologist, doesn’t seem bothered at all by her kids’ unnatural personalities. I’m not sure if this is the result of lazy writing on the filmmaker’s part, or an intentionally bad character trait. Either way, by the halfway point you won’t really care as Home Movie is utterly predictable and descends into every cliche torn from the found footage handbook. Contrived and about as scary as watching your Aunt Edna’s home movies. D

THE PYRAMID (2014) American archeologists stumble upon a buried, unexplored pyramid in the middle of the Egyptian desert. A father-daughter team of explorers are desperate to uncover an entrance into the underground monument, despite the fact the land is being engulfed in Arab Spring-like protests. They’re repeatedly told by their colleagues of impending danger—a warning confirmed when a poor Arabian porter is met with a blast of toxic gas released from the dig site and his face becomes hideously scarred—but the show must go on. Archeologist Dad (Denis O’Hare) and Daughter (Ashley Hinshaw) get their nervous team to journey to the center of the pyramid, where they’re immediately embroiled in bad air, falling debris, and eventually become a food source for some sort of ancient Bastet creature. All of this is flatly presented with no suspense or surprises, giving the viewer very little reason to care about what happens. The execution of the story can only be described as lazy as the filmmakers present a POV/found-footage setup at the beginning of the film but drop it whenever it’s convenient to the writing. The end credits are the only positive thing The Pyramid can offer its audience. F

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