★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Scott Slone.
The CW made a found footage horror movie! Well, not really, but it sure feels like it. Too perfect kids. Too beautiful actors. Too perfectly clean footage and technology. Replete with a rag tag group of Scooby Doo-esque paranormal researchers!
Malibu Horror Story is what can only be described as entitled and privileged horror. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The film follows four bros — they really are the definition of bros — very little redeeming and very little likable about any of them. Ironically, the film plays on the found footage of their partying ways, and the Malibu community mightily clutches its pearls and dismisses the crew as teen reprobates. Shortly after their high school graduation they go on a weekend binger followed by a drug-fueled camping trip to one of the boy’s ancestral properties. Then…they disappear. Poof. Gone.
An equally CW-comprised group of a too perfect team of paranormal researchers, the Paranormal Files, picks up the case from there. Through interviews, press clippings, and files from the boys’ cameras, the team deduces that the boys have befallen an Indian curse!
Turns out the camping trip property was once a sacred indian area that held a series of portals to, you guessed it, other worlds! The spirits are super displeased with the fact that they have been moved off their land, and raped, and tortured, and killed. I mean who wouldn’t be pissed.
In the third act, as the boy’s found footage wraps up, the Paranormal Files team discovers their research may have also triggered the native demon spirits. Using night vision, thermal imaging, and the whole raft of whiz-bang paranormal they too begin to feel the wrath of the spirit world. If this all feels a little too Scooby Doo-ish then you’re probably not far off.
Malibu Horror Story is a well put together film. The actors are perfectly fine and found footage jump scare queues are well constructed and well placed. The problem(s) with Malibu Horror Story are several-fold 1) the film breaks no new ground in the found footage world — trust us, you’ve seen all this too many times before, 2) the characters, in particular, the missing boys, are wholly unlikeable, 3) it is frustrating when a found footage film jumps back and forth between audio queues and a full blown soundtrack, and 4) the scares are all derived from jump scares and there’s never any real dread or tension.
The most nagging problem with the film is the fact that it’s void of any native perspective. That’s the entitled part. It’s largely comprised of too pretty CW dolts giving their highly uniformed perspective on indians. There’s no interviews with natives, there’s no discussion of native rites and rituals, and we’re left only with the vague and potentially racist ideas that indians and their cultural traditions are something to be feared and reviled. In our book that’s pretty lazy and incomplete.
Malibu Horror Story is likely Rated R for drug use and language.