Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the horror/drama CAPTURE KILL RELEASE by directors Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart.  To best describe the story, I will use a slightly modified version of IMDB’s plot summary:

“A couple plots to kill a random stranger just for the thrill of it, but things turn ugly when one of them seems hesitant to go through with the plan.” 

When I read that plot description I thought this was going to be somewhere along the lines of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), but what I was given was funnier and darker at the same time. The first half of this feature was actually laugh out loud funny as we watch the couple discuss their upcoming murder with a hilarious abstractness.  Thanks to an entrancingly buoyant performance by Jennifer Fraser, the jokes land perfectly and the audience, much like the couple, is able to laugh at the absurdity of their plan.

Then the other shoe drops.

While the fact that a switch is going to happen is well telegraphed to the viewer, it still manages to have a great impact.  The reality of the situation is incredibly noticeable in the fact that the humor, which is still present, is no longer funny when presented against the background of actually having committed a murder.  While some features will drop what makes the characters tick to try to bring greater impact to the shift in tone, here the horror arises from seeing their personalities under a different light.

This is where the strength of the actors really comes into play as we would not feel the impact of the change if we did not feel just the slightest bit invested in their relationship.  Having never seen either of these actors in anything before, I was duly impressed with their comedic timing and at how well they handled the heavy lifting of the second act.  There was a naturalistic feel to their performances that added a heft to this picture as we are made to feel like we are watching a real couple unwind.  While it may not be much the fact that they used their real names and the home movie look of the piece on further backed up the idea that what we are watching could have actually happened.

Now, when I say that this looks like a home movie, I do mean that the general conceit is that this couple is filming everything on handheld camera.  I know that there is a certain stigma around found footage features, but here the first person aspect adds an extra layer of authenticity as they have to switch off filming or leave the camera laying upon its side during their undertaking.  This makes certain scenes all the more palpable to the audience creating a creep factor that would not be present in a more polished medium.  The back half of this picture even makes the use of a handheld camera integral to the overall plot of the piece which is why I feel this is one of the strongest uses of the found footage style that I have ever seen.

I do have to briefly mention the one thing within this film that breaks the found footage rule: they use a very specific sound cue during some of the more impactful moments.  The sound is much like a low rumble equivalent to what people hear before an earthquake and it is definitely something not happening within the boundaries of the couple’s film.  While I could harp upon this being a distraction, it is so effective at eliciting a sense of dread during the scenes they use it for that it actually ended up being something I enjoyed.  I know that purists might get up in arms about this, but I found it to be so subtle and effective that it added a tangible sense of doom to this picture.

All in all, this is a solid entry not only in the catalog of found feature horror, but also into the overall horror genre.  The naturalistic feel of the piece creates a couple the audience can truly believe in and makes their violent outbursts incredibly uncomfortable.  Fans of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986) and “Dexter” (2006) will absolutely love this clever feature.

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