★★ of ★★★★★
A found footage anthology, complete with a hand-written note of spookiness!
The Fear Footage is a no-budget anthology found-footage horror by director Ricky Umberger. Its format follows in the footsteps of the VHS series, one story that enfolds (three, almost four) others within it. Some aspects are done surprisingly well and many predictably bad.
The parent story involves a cop being called to investigate a house that has spontaneously appeared where formerly there was none. The cop doesn’t actually seem to have any purpose for being there; I doubt that law enforcement has a radio code for “magic house”, maybe a 10-666? Whatever he’s there for, he expects trouble because he draws his gun and proceeds to point it at everything in the house. He’s pretty easily sidetracked though by the TV being on which is playing the first short.
In “Birthday Party,” a boy receives a camera for his birthday which is handy because now he can film the spooky clowns that have shown up at his house to celebrate with him. Here’s where the first surprising touches show themselves. Creepy fingers curling around a door, a voice coming from a source it shouldn’t be, and figures standing where they shouldn’t be, creates a pretty effective atmosphere of spookiness. At one point, I said, “Oh, hell no!” but, as usual, the character didn’t listen.
Next up is “Storm Chasers” which lacks the punch of the first segment. The titular storm chasers head off to do what their name implies only to find themselves on the wrong side of freaky hooded guys. I found the graffiti really distracting in the location. It’s a bit hard to feel tension when your protagonist is standing in front of the word “Vagina.” That being said, there was, again, some good body movements during the action sequences and a few sudden events that were, if not scary, at least surprising.
“Speak No Evil,” focuses on a former druggie who has become obsessed with noises in the woods behind his apartment. The sound work was really uneven on this segment, blaringly loud or whisper quiet. The locations were good, nice an ambient woods and then spooky locale with no random graffiti vulgarity. This was the first time (and second a few minutes later) I’ve ever seen vomit used as a jump scare.
The nearly fourth story isn’t actually a short, but a few written pages that the audience reads. I admit I’m a bit baffled on why they chose a non-cinematic route, especially when it didn’t tie into the next segment. It happens during the binding story, when the cop reads a little girl’s diary. I feel like maybe it could have been more effective if it had voiceover?
Finally, the film wraps back up when the police officer gets tired of watching home movies and decides to actually try and leave the house. This part has some pretty fun creepers as well as some location distortion (always a favorite of mine).
The Fear Footage at its best is better than the worst of VHS’s offerings. It isn’t particularly scary but it could give audience’s imaginations a nudge. It knows the genre well and does its best to keep up with the big boys. While I can’t say that the stories are revolutionary, for the most part, they’re capably executed. I’d like to see what the director could do with a bigger budget.