Trollhunter (Norway, 2010)

The trouble with many of these found footages (Grave Encounters, et al) is caused by lack of believability. Found footage relies on that to be convincing. Convincing that it’s REAL. Otherwise, there’s really no point in making a found footage film. This requires a very natural feeling from the “actors” and, with any kind of film, LOGIC.

The opening of Trollhunter proclaims blah blah blah…and “they determined this to be authentic”. What the? Yea, an authentic COMEDY. Take for example this phone call by the trollhunter, who is knowingly overheard by a young film crew following him: “a blood sample? Hmmm, that’s going to be tough”. Later, he pulls out an oversized, comical syringe. Then there is the three-headed troll which trollhunter explains uses its extra heads to scare away other trolls. Still determined to get all the dirt on the trolls, the eager documentary trio show little concern about their own well-being. This catches up to them when they go in a cave found to be a troll “lair”.

While the trolls range from impressive to hokey to video game style, the trollhunter himself is the stand-out character (as it turns out, the actor playing him is a controversial comedian). From when he tells the film crew to cover themselves with troll stench to when he is actually battling the trolls with a giant flash bulb, the hunter is a curious character. A third-person filming perspective and deeper insight would have given Trollhunter–the character and film itself–the depth it deserves. [rating: $5] –Kenyon

V/H/S (2012)

A muddled mess is this “collection” of found footage within found footage. Although, sometimes it’s impossible to know if some scenes are supposed to be found footage from the camera or just the character’s viewpoint to see what they see (the lines are crossed when a stooge wears glasses with a built in video cam). Either way, the idea of characters finding VHS tapes with bizarre recordings is there, but it’s way too poorly executed to have any soul or substance. Basically V/H/S is groups of people being moronic and/or immature and then getting sliced up for no reason other than shock value. The forced interference effects of the shaky cams hinder any chance of this possessing authenticity. More like S/H/T or M/E/S/S. [rating: $1] – Kenyon

The Tunnel (2011, Australia)

There’s found footage. And then there’s found footage brought to attention by the people in it who then use half the movie to comment about the footage. This flopped in the Fourth Kind and Lake Mungo. Unfortuntely, the Tunnel suffers from the same common mishap: melodramatic commentary up the ying-yang. Let the footage speak for itself. We don’t need an actor to explain everything, ad naseum So many fails with the Tunnel.

If the people in the “found footage” are commenting after it was recorded, then there’s no suspense because we already know they are alive and well. Which is strange, considering that a mysterious humanoid underground dweller easily spilled the blood of their companions. Speaking of that, the “reporter,” who so urgently needed to investigate the underground tunnels of Australia, should be held responsible for those deaths. Not that it’s even believable that they died. The Tunnel lacks authenticity, something most evident when the doomed crew’s camera lens has cracks yet the cracks do not move in unison with the camera movement. [rating: $0]

Lake Mungo (2008, Australia) More like Lake DUMBO. This melodramatic “mockumentary” about the haunting of a drowned girl serves to pleasure itself by showing a ghost in camera footage that is later discovered to be faked. Eff us, right? The second half is more confusing than the first, adding blurry camera phone clips and more dull as hell commentary from people who knew the girl. Serious material like this needs to be handled better. [rating: $1] –Kenyon

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) If there has ever been a film that you can call “not for the squeamish,” it’s Cannibal Holocaust–hell, it was banned in like 50 countries. A groundbreaking, shocking cannibal film that, although isn’t perfect, set the bar for copycats (Welcome to the Jungle, anyone? Kenyon raises his hand). Shot on 16mm, it’s gruesome and explicit, even by today’s standards. It’s even controversial within the film itself, while the production and filming faced all sorts of problems. If you want to get deep, read up about the social-political messages it represents. Without spoiling anything (really, it’s just something you have to see), most of the first half of the film follows an anthropologist searching in the Amazon jungle for a lost group of people who were filming some sort of twisted documentary about native tribes, and apparently, cannibal tribes. Although the group is notorious for setting up graphic scenes, they are now dead, and likely eaten. The search party is able to obtain the film reels and bring them back to the U.S, where they discover that the footage is not at all appropriate for public exposure. As the film within a film progresses, the documentary crew pushes things WAY too far in their quest to fabricate their story. Inevitably, they end up as bones. Now, there are some scenes in Holocaust–some of it is REALLY effed up–that are REAL. That said, the uncut version deserves an NC-17 rating, as it is difficult to forget. [rating: $10] –Kenyon

Here’s a smart comment someone posted on this video: “Pathetic how people bitch about the killing of 7 animals that were killed 32 years ago, whilst in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of animals are being ‘processed’ in farms and the like. At this very moment, imagine how many animals- like Sheep, Cows, Goats, Chickens and the like -are savagely being slaughtered just so your fridge doesn’t have an empty meat section. There’s no such thing as ‘Civilization’. We’re just cocky because we’re clever. Humankind is and always will be, savage.”

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters (2011) The very promising trailer for Grave Encounters has a scene where a girl’s face instantly turns demonic. That alone is enough to reel someone in, hoping to see the next level in “these are the tapes we found” cinema. The premise of a ghost-hunting TV crew filming their experience in an old haunted asylum was off to an okay start, even though it blatantly rips off Paranormal State. The crew’s director is thinking money over ethics, so whatever trouble he gets into he deserves. They set up cameras–which later we see are too conveniently placed–in the asylum. They walk around, blah blah….obviously they are going to be attacked by evil spirits. About halfway in, the movie loses its direction. Along with the terrified characters.

The crew becomes trapped inside the mental hospital (because of a bizarre twist) and all the film cares about at this point is to have things jump out and scare you like it’s a Resident Evil video game. Worse is that with no explanation, it turns out that they are now in some sort of purgatory with the spirits/ghosts/whatever. There are also mad doctors there to operate on you, as they originally did to the patients when the asylum was open. One of the crew disappears and assumingly gets an “operation” off screen and then re-appears wearing a hospital gown and speaking incoherently. I mean COME ON. Where’d the gown come from? That’s when Grave Encounters jumps off a cliff. The surprise scares are jumpy, but without substance and reasoning, the believability goes out the window. The bogus rat near the end which is eaten for shock value couldn’t make the save. [rating: $2] -Kenyon