I have no idea why I even bothered putting three found footage films in my watchlist, but since I did and then watched them, I share with you my brief thoughts on Devil’s Trail, Before Someone Gets Hurt, and Hinsdale House.
DEVIL’S TRAIL (2017)
Considering The Blair Witch Project disappointed me over twenty years ago after a brilliantly chilling online mythology was crafted beforehand, I can’t imagine why anyone would basically rehash most of it, but here we are with 73 more minutes of leaves on the ground, rocks, and sticks. Sigh.
Two guys head into a forest to look for the Jersey Devil. They’re experienced survivalists, so we get lots of tips for starters.
They find occult symbols made of sticks and stones. They fight over a compass. They argue over the right direction to go. They even end up in a tent they stumble upon. It so would have been worth it to blow the budget on paying Heather to make a cameo appearance in the tent.
At least this film has cheesy red monster eyes and three naked witch girls. I swear, I didn’t blur them out. It was like that in the movie.
On the bright side, the ending actually delivers a hokey surprise—there’s some actual horror!
BEFORE SOMEONE GETS HURT (2018)
I only watched this one because it stars Michael Welch of Z Nation. It pays off in that sense because he shows off his furry chest.
Other than that it’s yet another found footage film about a ghost hunting crew trying to do a show. The little wink-wink here is that they’re in talks to be picked up by SyFy…you know, the network Z Nation was on.
The film makes the smart move of not always sticking to found footage POV, but that doesn’t excuse music cues during the found footage scenes, but they definitely help with the cheap scares.
As usual, we’re subjected to a whole lot of running around in the dark. As generic as this all is, I was on board with a back story involving a cult that wants to get Satan back into heaven.
There are some creepy crucifixion elements as well, but it gets overly religious, and the plot falls apart without succeeding in clarifying why things unfold as they do.
HINSDALE HOUSE (2019)
If we’ve learned anything in the decades since The Blair Witch Project made found footage into a rubber stamp film business, it’s that its success convinced way too many people that making a scary movie is easy.
Along with the fact that I grew up on a Hinsdale Avenue, the 65-minute length lured me in to Hinsdale House. It’s unfathomable to make a movie that’s only 65 minutes long and is still painfully padded, but that’s one place this film is a success.
After a brief backstory that also summarizes The Amityville Horror (family experienced scary things and eventually abandoned the house in the 1970s), a small cast and crew goes to the infamously haunted Hinsdale house to shoot a horror movie.
Half the cast just disappears from the film with little fanfare. Unfortunately that includes the beefy boy, but at least he stuck around long enough to give us my favorite shot in the film.
The four that remain split up and run around the dark, not even knowing what they’re supposed to be afraid of.
The film doesn’t bother sticking to its goal of being found footage, as it inserts standard camera perspectives in between the found footage at a dizzying speed, thereby proving that delivering a cohesive story found footage style takes more talent than just pointing a camera. There are endless still shots of the house that are supposed to be scary because the footage flips, pixelates, and freezes. Be prepared to see a lot of this.
The climax with the final girl is a mess; it isn’t chilling and clarifies nothing since there was nothing to clarify to begin with. The poor actress is forced to just react to what she’s seeing for at least 3 minutes straight to help push the movie over the one-hour mark.
Please, please, please let the slow painful death of found footage films pick up speed.