The thing I sort of love and hate about found footage films is that the difference between a good one and a bad one can be razor thin at times. It all comes down to a choice made by the filmmakers on which way to head things and which tact to take. I have always been drawn to the way that anyone can make one so long as you have a good idea and can live within your limitations. Yeah, it’s basic filmmaking and storytelling 101 but the person that says simple means bad is a fool. Ya get the simple stuff done and you’re already on your way to a successful project. That doesn’t mean that it’s a sure thing but if you screw up the basics it’s real hard to get the harder stuff to work.
I have watched enough found footage films to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t and too often you have folks wanting to make a quick buck following a trend on what seems like a low investment and a high return. The problem is that a hundred other people had the same big idea and most of them have access to the same consumer computer effects tools as you so unless you’re bringing something unique to the project you’re just one of a hundred of similar items lost on the digital shelves and hoping your cover art is alluring enough to get a rental or watch.
I recently watched two found footage films and they show exactly what I am talking about. One was essentially a one person show (there are other cast members but the focus for most of the film is on one person) that has a simple plot and uses what you see think is happening to really win the day. The other film has an interesting idea but falls prey to corny acting, a convoluted plot, and sloppy special effects that were not needed. I am choosing not to review the ‘bad’ film of the two because they tried and I don’t want to slag them outright but the film didn’t work. It COULD have, and there was an interesting idea, but so often the filmmakers get to heavy handed and instead of trying to ramp up the scares they go all in force the scares, and in doing, the film gets ridiculous in its scope and bearing. A GREAT version of a similar film is HONEYMOON, which is very low key and slow burn and it works brilliantly.
THE WOODSMAN is the story of a small potatoes man who has a man versus nature program on Mexican media. The man will go out into the woods with very few suplies and his own wits to brave the terrain. What we find though is that he is being directed by producers and what started out as him versus nature is now him taking cautious preordained routes and filming a false narrative when he is never at risk from the elements. He’s reached his limit though and wants to get back to what he feels he does best, and that is to brave the elements and to pit himself against nature to see if he can survive. The man heads off into a thick forest to make his way towards a pick up point while filming his advantures along the way. This is a woodland he had tried to venture through previously but had been sent back when the river had flooded. These are woods where few tread and where it is said a civilization once disappeared without a trace. As he heads through the woodland though he gets the feeling that he is not alone and is being followed due to strange sounds he begins to hear. The woodsman pushes onward, too far away from safety either forward or back and danger is all around him.
The premise is simple, the use of one main actor puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders but it works here. This is a story of a frustrated man whose passion is being pulled away from him by investors. The POV camera becomes a way for him to lash out and talk to the producers and editor/friend he is so frustrated with. The horror is a slow burn but once we realize what is happening we find ourselves only a step and a half in front of him and that’s not nearly far enough. The reveal of what is happening is wonderfully done and gives just enough to tell you everything you need to know.
The film has its limitations, there are aspects of it that are telegraphed and too familiar, and it can get to be a bit much putting the load of the film on one person. The movie has the usual POV look but it works and even the limitations don’t hold the film back from being fun and a well made example for the subgenre.
Sure, this isn’t the most memorable of the found footage films but it’s got a lot of heart and is an exmaple of a well done film that fits into another subgenre that has very few well done movies. Not the best film but a heck of a fun one that’s well worth tracking down for a look.
3.5 out of 5