Platform: Hulu Plus on Roku
Starring: An American guy, a Chinese/Malaysian guy and a bunch of Filipinos.
Ah, found footage horror. How do I love thee? Well, mostly love thee. Oh...sometimes I despise thee.
Here we have a joint American/Asian collaboration dealing with some found footage of a family that went missing over Christmas Holiday in the remote mountains of the Philippines. Originally based on a Malaysian urban legend, the filmmakers decided to move the location to the Philippines to avoid the sometimes random censorship of the Malaysian government.
A local Filipino television journalist created this "documentary" from videotaped footage found at the site of an unsolved 2003 crime involving an entire family gone missing at a mansion in some remote mountains. The film is a combination of current-day documentary footage, re-enactments and found footage, but mostly found footage. Basically what you would see on Dateline on a Friday night. But, ya know...Filipino.
We're met with some uncomfortable religious imagery almost immediately at this remote mansion. A statue of Jesus with it's head covered by a black cloth sack. Then dead birds beginning falling from the sky. Not what you would call "good omens" for the young-ish couple that is announcing their engagement to the family for the first time.
Everyone in the film speaks English, mostly flawless in fact. So there is little need for subtitles of any kind (although...), not that they were even available on this platform. A very American friendly film. They are also mostly atrocious actors. Which, in a way, works for found footage films. They aren't supposed to be good actors. But some of them are beyond found footage awful. Expecting more from a low-budget flick like this is probably expecting way too much, so I chose to ignore it as best as I could.
During Christmas dinner, we see what appears to be an earthquake of some kind. The power then goes out, including all the batteries in all the phones and all the vehicles outside. Everything EXCEPT the video camera used by an autistic cousin (Justin) to record all the action. The family begins to experience all kinds of supernatural phenomena. Mostly captured either visually or aurally by the video camera. Which seems to be supernatural itself, as they can't seem to turn it off.
Family members go missing, TV's turn on and off, horrific demonic sights and sounds from out in the woods, and a wide assortment of things that go bump in the night. When they find a French book titled "The Way of Baphomet", their fates have been sealed. Black magic, Satanism, evil cults. And I thought Christmas with my family was uncomfortable. Geesh...
What follows is both a lot of fun and very confusing. Remember how I said the film required no subtitles? Yeah...I wasn't taking into account the low audio production quality of the film. There were entire scenes that I had very little understanding of what was being said. But that low production value also gave the film a visually disturbing quality that would have been impossible with an HD camera. Trade off. I'd prefer a film that wasn't so indecipherable at times, but that confusion may have made the film that much more frightening.
Oh, and there's a pretty hilarious demonic birth scene in there as well. Hi-larious! Listen, it's a hot, confusing mess of a film. But it's also got a pretty high level of creepiness going on with it. I could see it becoming something of a minor cult classic in some circles. Creepy, awful, funny (unintentional) with the occasional real fright.
Give it a shot.
Verdant Dude Rating: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkin ales