Welcome to The Overlook Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct’.
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Although I’m not always a massive fan of found footage, I can certainly see merit in the technique when it’s executed effectively. And today’s selection is an example of just that. Found Footage 3D is funny, engaging, and intelligent. Moreover, it’s accessible. Even those averse to the found technique are likely to find writer/director Steven DeGennaro’s take on the subgenre surprisingly palatable.
The film follows a group of indie filmmakers as they travel to a remote cabin in the woods. Of course, it’s rumored to be haunted. Their plan is to shoot the world’s first 3D found footage film. But when the cabin’s reputation proves to be more than just local lore, the cast and crew find themselves in an all-out battle for survival.
I previously mentioned that the flick is accessible to a wide audience and I meant it. Part of that distinction pertains to the presentation of the footage. Since we are following the production of Spectre of Death (a film within the film) we get much steadier camerawork and better-quality sound than many found footage flicks deliver. Accordingly, Found Footage 3D has a more cinematic feel than many of its contemporaries.
The film’s tendency to good-naturedly poke fun at itself, frequently lampooning the use of 3D and commonly used found footage tropes work to great effect. It feels like the filmmakers possess a thorough understanding of why a lot of found footage films aren’t entirely effective and why 3D is often cumbersome to watch. As such, they lovingly send up some groan-inducing tropes.
For instance, Found Footage 3D provides a meta-commentary on the found footage subgenre that takes aim at some of the more inexplicable tropes commonly employed within. Amusingly, one of the main conceits the filmmakers are struggling with is how to justify why the characters within their film continue to shoot footage when there’s no reasonable cause for them to be doing so. Seeing as anyone that has ever watched a found footage film has likely asked themselves why the characters are continuing to film, it makes for relevant commentary.
But it also serves to reinforce the fact that the creative team behind Found Footage 3D is able to present viewers with a fairly solid justification for continuing to film all the way into the off-the-rails third act. We eventually learn that the entity that’s haunting the premises can only be seen through the camera lens. And that serves as a much more reasonable explanation than the paper-thin ‘we must document everything’ approach we’ve seen so many times prior.
Another impressive conceit is the way the flick successfully melds the found footage narrative style with comedy. We don’t see many horror comedies presented as found footage. The two make for an unlikely juxtaposition that can be really tough to pull off. However, the humor here is quite effective. It’s often subtle and understated and doesn’t come from punchlines, more so than by way of awkward exchanges between the characters. Particularly amusing is film journalist Scott Weinberg’s cameo appearance as himself.
I should warn you that Found Footage 3D does take some time to get where it’s going, taking something of a slow-burn approach. But the characters are quite entertaining. Even those that aren’t entirely likable are plenty enjoyable to watch. And that distinction justifies the gradual escalation, which eventually builds to a rather gripping third act.
As for why the film remains under-seen, I suspect that has everything to do with its release strategy. The flick played the festival circuit in 2016 and received universal acclaim from critics. However, it didn’t snag distribution nearly as quickly as most festival darlings do. In fact, Found Footage 3D lingered without a distro deal for what felt like eons, eventually landing on Shudder in 2017 and finally getting a physical release in 2018. Had the flick debuted right on the heels of its festival buzz, I suspect it would have reached a wider audience.
As of the publication of this post, Found Footage 3D is available to stream on Shudder. The Blu-ray is still in print and even offers the option to play in 3D (glasses included) or 2D. I would highly recommend experiencing in 3D the first time you watch.
That’s all for this installment. Thanks for checking in to The Overlook Motel.
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