Wednesday, October 26, 2011
seen online via YouTube
I remember seeing The Blair Witch Project with Jenny when it first came out in 1999. It was at the Angelika, and if it wasn't a complete sell-out then it was close. While we liked it, we both found the hand-held footage kinda nauseating after awhile, especially when they were running all over the place in the dark. Perhaps it was inevitable that such guerrilla filmmaking techniques would spark a small revolution in horror movies, one that was exacerbated eight years later - at least in America - with Paranormal Activity.
Now, I don't follow horror that closely, so I can't speak with any authority on just how influential those two films have been, especially since I've not seen PA or its sequels. But I can understand why "found footage" movies, as they've been called, have taken off the way they have. They're reflective of this YouTube age, where anyone from Justin Bieber to Rebecca Black to the "Chocolate Rain" guy can grab their fifteen minutes of fame overnight, regardless of whether or not any actual talent is involved. Cameras have become standard in cellphones now, so it's easier than ever to make a video. And because they've become so ubiquitous, everyone has become documentarians, recording everything from the mundane activities of daily life to political protests and natural disasters.
Personally, I find it more than a little disturbing. I mean, there are already tons of hidden surveillance cameras all over the place, especially here in New York where we're constantly on the lookout for terrorists. Add to that regular people, secretly or not secretly, filming you with their cellphones, for all kinds of reasons, and it's all very Orwellian. Maybe you eat on the subway. Maybe you're the victim of a TV show prank. If one thought about the number of times one is on somebody's camera, daily, it could be enough to keep one from leaving their house. Personally, I've always been somewhat camera shy. I never like the way I look in pictures, because the image I have of myself never quite matches the image I see in a photograph or on video.
I'd heard good things about the Spanish horror flick [REC] and was pleased to find a dubbed version online. (The dubbing was actually quite good.) It too, is in the "found footage" vein: the hostess of a late-night reality TV show (and her cameraman) accompany a group of firefighters to investigate some strange goings-on in an apartment building, but get caught up in a sudden and unexpected quarantine of the building and its residents due to reports of a possible biohazard... but that's only part of the story.
Throughout all of the grizzly proceedings, the hostess constantly implores her cameraman to keep filming - and indeed he does, capturing every dead body and infected resident, in light and in darkness, running up stairwells and peeking through windows, and my mind immediately went back to watching Blair for the first time, and the feelings of disorientation and panic it stirred up. I also thought of how difficult a movie like this is to film. Yes, it's all hand-held, but even with this hand-held work, one has to still be aware of what to show and what not to show, as well as how. The cameraman is part of the story, and he can't hold the camera all the time. I noticed how whenever he does put the camera down, it's usually in a way that we can still see just enough of what's going on without being lost. That's the sort of thing one would have to plan and rehearse carefully.
I was pleased to see that [REC] takes place in Barcelona. I've talked about the summer I spent there before, and I had hoped to spot some familiar landmarks, but alas, I didn't - the whole film takes place at night and we see very little of the city streets.
[REC] doesn't end the way one would expect, so I suppose it's a good thing that they made a sequel that picks up where the original left off. I'll have to watch that too.
Previously in Halloween 2011 Week:
The Ghost of Yotsuya