Allison Miller as Samantha McCall
Zach Gilford as Zach McCall
Sam Anderson as Father Thomas
Roger Payano as Cab Driver
Vanessa Ray as Suzie
Bill Martin Williams as Ken
Geraldine Singer as Sally
Julia Denton Julia Denton as Natalie
Colin Walker Colin Walker as Stanley
Madison Wolfe as Brittany
Joshua Shane Brooks as Braedon
Aimee Carrero as Emily
Robert Belushi as Mason
Donna Duplantier as Dr. J. Ludka
DeMaris Gordon as Psychic
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
A Running Diary
I'm going to do something a little different with this review, because I want to pay tribute to my good friend Mike Ryan of the Huffington Post who regularly pays to see bad movies and keeps a running diary of said movies. I don't know why he does it. Maybe he's just a glutton for punishment because he seems to be in pain whenever he does them, but being that he's at the Sundance Film Festival and not able to catch "Devil's Due," I decided to bear his cross… so to speak.
Last year, I tried hard to avoid watching any bad movies that weren't screened in advance for critics and 20th Century Fox has wisely kept this found footage horror-thriller hidden from critics and you're about to learn why. This running diary DOES CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS so if you still plan on seeing this movie after reading how much I hated it, well don't say I didn't warn you.
10 PM Was I supposed to have seen "The Devil Inside" before seeing this movie? Did I need to see the latest "Paranormal Activity," which I also missed? No, I think this is a completely separate movie that just rips those movies off.
10:01 There are literally six people in the theater and that includes myself and local critic and my regular moviegoing companion Kevin Carr (@kevincarr) from Fat Guys at the Movies
and FilmSchoolRejects. Sadly, I'm probably his sidekick rather than the other way around.
10:02 Our movie theater of choice is the Marcus Crossroads
in Columbus, Ohio, which has the most comfortable reclining leather seats and a generally good atmosphere to see a movie with great sound and a big screen.. and boy did I wish I was here seeing a much better than the one I'm about to sit through.
10:03 Before the movie begins, they showed five trailers. Two of them are for upcoming found footage movies and two of them are for REAL movies, the best of them being the trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
. The found footage movies include something called "Welcome to Yesterday," which looks like "Primer for Dummies." It's produced by Michael Bay so make of that what you will. The other trailer is for something called "The Quiet Ones," a British supernatural thriller, starring Jared Harris from "Mad Men" and "Catching Fire" star Sam Claflin. Those two names alone offer more starpower than anyone in "Devil's Due" and "Welcome to Yesterday."
10:13 Okay the movie's begun and we see Zach McCall (played by Zach Gilford) in a police interrogation room and he says he didn't do anything. I have a feeling that he's not lying and we'll be watching 90 minutes of home movies proving that he didn't do anything.
10:15 Yes, we flashback a few months to right before Zach proposed to his wife Samantha, played by Allison Miller, and Zach is one of those annoying guys who carries a video camera everywhere to document every single moment with his wife. As one might expect it's going to get annoying pretty fast.
10:20 Less than ten minutes into this movie and I already hate both of the main characters, which defeats the purpose of spending so much time with them before supernatural stuff begins. These filmmakers are clearly using the found footage formula the wrong way.
10:22 This movie is directed by half the members of YouTube sensations Radio Silence
who had a pretty kick ass segment in the original "V/H/S" movie where they literally destroyed an entire house on camera while maintaining the found footage.
10:30 Anyway, we have followed the McCanns from the wedding to their honeymoon on Santa Domingo and the movie literally turns into the same lousy travelogue that we saw in last year's "The Last Exorcism Part II." They go to see a fortune teller who seems to know about Samantha's past, that her parents were killed in a car crash (one of many cliches)… and she warns them about something being "Born of Death." Ooo…. That's called "foreshadowing" for those who didn't take English. I hope they don't have to pay this fortune teller to creep them out.
10:32 Literally up until that point, NOTHING has happened in the movie, nothing even remotely supernatural. We're basically just watching boring home movies by annoying people.
10:35 They meet a creepy cab driver who takes them to an underground party. They drink, they dance then something happens and they pass out and wake up the next day not knowing what happened. Dude, you have a camera!!! Watch the footage!!! (Zach won't figure this out for another 45 minutes.)
10:40 The McCanns are back home and a few minutes later Samantha is pregnant! (Because yes, kids, if you go to Santa Domingo, you're likely to immediately get pregnant.) It's a nice surprise for the young couple and they start going through the usual procedures, getting an ultrasound, telling the family, etc etc. Yeah, we're basically still watching their home movies and nothing is happening at all.
10:44 They've thrown in a couple really cheap scares usually accompanied by loud noises. This isn't going well at all.
10:45 No surprise, the baby is growing faster than expected and Samantha has all sorts of bruises on her body and she's starting to act weird.
11:00 Apparently this movie was "written" by someone named Lindsay Devlin and I'm already convinced that what I've already written in this running diary already makes me a better writer than Devlin. I'm actually shocked there's any sort of script involved in this mess.
11:05 Kevin Carr and I have literally turned into a synchronized swim team as we shake our hands furiously at the screen whenever it starts using other camera sources that make no sense. Like we're now watching Samantha in the supermarket eating raw meat, because that's just so weird and creepy, even though no one else in the supermarket seems to pay her no heed. When she goes outside, we cut to the parking lot cameras and see her get hit by a van at which she lashes out with "super demon strength" doing a real number on the car.
11:15 Now for some reason, we're out in the woods with some annoying kids who haven't appeared in the movie so far. They just found a gutted dear and now they see Samantha hovering over another eviscerated deer and she attacks them in one of the movie's big set pieces where Radio Silence shows off what they can do while still working with found footage. It's not as impressive as anything in "Chronicle."
11:20 A little while later, they're in church for first communion and the priest starts spazzing out and bleeding from his nose. There's nothing particularly scary about this except that white robes were not a good choice for a day of nosebleeds.
11:24 I've decided that Zach Gilford is a very very bad actor. He seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to remember his lines (from that so-called "script") because there's no way that anyone could improvise as badly as he does. Clearly, they couldn't even trust him with a different name for his character because he probably will only answer to the name "Zach." Maybe it's method acting. I wonder if they had to glue the camera to his hands to make sure he didn't drop it.
11:25 Wait a darn second, Zach Gilford is an actual actor who appeared on the hit shot "Friday Night Lights"? And he appeared in Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand" as well? Is this like the shortest career for an actor ever… from Emmy-winning television show to one of the worst found footage movies ever made?
11:26 Allison Miller is a significantly better actor than Gilford but that's not really saying much because the "script"—I really need to see this document because I don't believe it exists—is so bad and after a while she's just walking around being creepy and not doing nearly as good a job of it as Katie Featherston, who really originated that type of "acting" with the original "Paranormal Activity."
11:28 It looks like Radio Silence are back to doing their "destroying a house" trick that they used in "V/H/S," so they're basically plagiarizing themselves at this point.
11:30 Oh and look! Here comes the demon cult to retrieve Samantha's demon baby! Did anyone see that coming? Oh, yeah, probably everyone who saw "Rosemary's Baby."
11:31 In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone involved with this movie saw "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" and thought, "I could make a better movie than those ones for $50,000 or less." They would be wrong.
11:32 And we're back in the interrogation room as Zach AKA Zach is again trying to explain that he didn't do anything and he's being told that everyone he thought he knew was wrong including the creepy gynecologist who took over Samantha's case…. Again, directly ripped off from "Rosemary's Baby."
11:35 Oh no, are they really trying to set up a sequel to this with the same creepy crab driver picking up another honeymooning couple, this time in France? Please, make it stop. This movie cannot have a sequel while there are children starving in Africa who could use that money!
11:36 I really wish I could drink right now, so I can wash my brain out and forget about this movie, but I have a feeling by the time I wake up in the morning I already will have.
The Bottom Line:
The success of movies like "The Devil Inside" and "Chronicle" has wrought crappy, poorly conceptualized, half-written and barely fleshed out movies like this which just rehashes lots of things we've seen in other movies. We have to assume, even hope, that a movie this bad will finally wring the death knell for found footage horror… but sadly we'd probably be wrong. After watching Radio Silence's feature film debut, I think they might be better off sticking to silent radio and laying off the filmmaking for a while.