Found Footage 3D
review by David Pitt
Written and Directed by Steven DeGennaro
A small film crew is in Texas to shoot a found footage flick. Not just any found footage flick: they’re going to make it in 3D, the first time that’s ever been done. The story of their movie, entitled Spectre of Death, is simple: a married couple travels to a remote cabin to try to fix their faltering relationship and encounters something they hadn’t bargained for. But, as the shoot progresses, the film crew experiences things that range from the mildly perplexing to the downright frightening. Eventually something evil comes out to play, and the gore starts to fly.
Now here’s the really clever thing: this is a found footage movie about people who are making a found footage movie. Carter Roy and Alena von Stroheim play Derek and Amy, an unhappily-married couple. She’s Spectre of Death’s lead actress, and he’s her co-star and director. In Spectre of Death Derek and Amy play Derek and Amy, who are also married, and who are also unhappy. Roy and von Stroheim, in other words, are playing fictional people who are starring in a movie about fictionalized versions of themselves. Not exactly the easiest role for an actor to play, but they are both excellent.
Come to think of it, the entire cast is excellent, which is not something you normally find in a low-budget horror movie. So is the production design, the found-footage-style cinematography, and – I want to single this out because it’s often ignored, especially in reviews of low-budget films – the sound. Writer/director Steven DeGennaro’s sound design is spectacular: gritty and vivid and, in places, extremely unsettling. He handles the editing, too, and it’s splendid: he really makes the movie, which of course was scripted and (presumably) meticulously blocked, look and feel like it was put together from footage left behind by a film crew who, sadly, died under rather bizarre circumstances.
I want to talk about one more thing and then I’ll let you go. Found Footage 3D (I watched it in 2D) has a certain, um, meta element that I thought worked well. Characters talk about things – plot devices, shooting style, structural elements — you commonly find in found footage movies, and then those things appear in the movie. Yes, I know that’s not a wildly original idea – the Scream movies did it, too – but it adds an extra layer of complexity to the film, a sort of self-awareness that I found quite appealing.
I’m not a fan of found footage movies. I find them artificial, unbelievable, and rather nonsensical. I really liked this one, though. The script is tidy, the acting is natural, it looks great, and the scary stuff is very scary indeed. Right now it’s available exclusively on the VOD service Shudder, and you should seriously consider seeking it out.