File this under – Movies that seem ‘real’ but aren’t.
This isn’t real.
There, that’s out of the way.
As I have mentioned before, there is a very subtle art to making ‘fauxumentary’ / ‘mockumentary’ films. You have two masters to serve, the documentary, and the fictional film. In the end, you are making a movie so you want to make sure you hit the markers that one expects, the intro, the escalation, the explosion, and the denouement. You want to hit the notes that one expects from a movie. If you want to make a successful fauxumentary though you need to serve that master too. You have to have a topic they are documenting, you have to have ‘the crew’ of filmmakers that are making it, and you have to follow what one expects from watching a doc, to a degree.
The good thing about the fake doc route though is that it gives the reason the camera is always running. You really are trying to document everything because you are trying to create a record of what is happening. That is one of the reasons BLAIR WITCH works for me is that she loses herself to the movie as a defense mechanism. The world through a lens seems controllable in the face of chaos and horror.
Some will buy that, some won’t, but having been behind the camera a few times, I do get it.
It’s the same thing as a kid getting under the covers, it isn’t REALLY gonna save you but it feels like it will at least protect you.
HOWARD’S MILL is a film set up as a documentary looking into the case of a woman who has gone missing mysteriously while out treasure hunting with her husband. The film is investigating the disappearance of the woman and her husband, who is the prime suspect. What we learn is that the two of them were on an old farm property that had been unoccupied for decades and were ‘treasure hunting’ with their metal detectors. They split up and search the land on their own and the wife just…disappears. As the filmmakers start to look into the disappearance they learn that there have been other, similar vanishings on that property and suddenly the mystery isn’t just about one woman, but about many people and what it all means. As the husband joins the crew as they make their film and investigate the disappearances they start to learn that what was once a simple missing persons case has now become something far stranger and far more chilling.
This is a REALLY good movie.
I have to admit that I was really surprised I haven’t heard about this one or seen anything about it. I get it, there are a LOT of films out now and this is a found footage movie on Tubi – with a DREADFUL movie poster, holy cow! – but this is WAY better than you would think. The documentary aspect is handled very well with believable interviews and a form that makes you think of the crime docs that people are watching of late. When things turn and we start to get into the bigger mystery we are given so many theories about what ELSE is going on in the area that, again, this is sort of the Everyone Is Nutty sort of part of docs. What they do though is slowly peel away the layers of this story so that you start to see that things are not at all what they seem.
The acting here is very good with believable characters, the story is creepy and credible enough that some are left asking – is this real? The documentary aspect is handled very well and the film sticks with it through the entirety. They stay in their lane with the movie and don’t try to make it be something it isn’t and don’t try to bite off too much.
The big knock I have on the film is that there are mysteries, a lot of them, that are left unsolved. It works, and I actually sort of like it, but if you start asking too many questions you will pull the strings that start to unravel things. For anyone expecting an action packed film well, you will be disappointed. This is a slow burn where the horror creeps up on you and as you think about it at the end, sinks its teeth in deep.
Watch the credits, or stay for them, as there’s one last thing which I am sure, if you are a seasoned film veteran, will be able to guess how it will come.
This really is a good movie. A very good movie. My wife and I were a little blown away at how good it was. It’s a shame no one is talking about it because it’s one of the more solid found footage films out there right now and shows you that there is still life in that old beast if done right.
Definitely worth seeking out if you are looking for some new found footage fun.
3.75 out of 5
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