“Found footage” and “3D” are industry buzzwords almost certain to send the majority of general audiences running in the opposite direction nowadays, but director Steven DeGennaro ain’t afraid of no 3D OR found footage. In fact, he’s combined the two in his debut feature, FOUND FOOTAGE 3D! Talk about truth in advertising; the film is indeed a found footage flick along with being presented in 3D!
An intrepid group of filmmakers head to a cabin in backwoods Texas where they intend to slap together a quick and nasty found footage production. But this won’t just be any regular Blair Witch rip-off; this is gonna be the first found footage flick shot natively in 3D! Before long, the evil force in their movie starts haunting the cast and crew… for real.
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D wants to be to the FF genre what Wes Craven’s Scream was to the slasher. DeGennaro treats the material with a satirical slant, lampooning its conventions and cliches with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The opening text introduction comes complete with a spelling error, the interviews with doomsaying locals become a punchline, and the ghoulish moanings that wake the film crew in the night turn out to be a couple having loud sex.
However, where Scream was somewhat reverential of the material it was skewering, FOUND FOOTAGE 3D is less so. The characters know they’re making their film for a quick buck. No one cares about the material, and the sound recordist outright says found footage does not equal a real movie. There aren’t many sub-genres of horror that divide fans quite like found footage. You either love it, or you hate it.
Sure, there are plenty of lazy examples out there, but I think dismissing the genre wholesale is a mistake. At its best, it can be incredibly effective. There’s something about the first-person perspective – and not being able to see beyond the borders of the camera – that generates a feeling of uneasiness that traditional cinematography cannot.
While never completely losing the comedic tone, DeGennaro switches gears halfway through and heads down a more conventional horror path. He dusts off the book and fishes out all the old tricks to scare the viewer. The evil force haunting the crew manifests as a disappointingly computer-generated creation that holds none of the menace it requires to pull us through the journey from laughter to terror, but despite this, there are a few scenes that work as intended and manage to creep up on you.
It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the point in the genre’s lifespan where we can get a film like this. The Blair Witch Project may have been almost two decades ago, but it wasn’t until Paranormal Activity came along and really set the rules for found footage. It’s only been eight years. Since then we’ve had countless knock-offs (plus a few gems in the rough). Has it really played itself out already?
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D is fitfully funny, and fitfully scary. On its own, it couldn’t stand as a comedy, and as a horror film, it would be crushed under the weight of a million other uninspired found footage films. By blending both elements, it almost becomes fresh. Almost. If you’re already tired of found footage, there won’t be much to win you over here – but if, like me, you can still find something to like in the format, FOUND FOOTAGE 3D will help you pass an hour and a half painlessly. Plus, it’s produced by Kim Henkel of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame – not that it makes much of a difference, it’s just nice to see him still working in horror.
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D is now available to watch on exclusively on Shudder.