horror, found footage, sci-fi
Director: Matty Beckerman
Writer: Robert Lewis
Main Cast: Jeff Bowser as Sean, Riley Polanski as Riley and Katherine Sigismund as Katie
Plot Summary: After several reports of people seeing unidentified flying objects and mysterious lights in the sky -- known as the Brown Mountain Lights, which actually occurred in North Carolina -- a family of five fears not, as they go hiking in the exact location of these occurrences. What they experience first-hand is something to see for yourself.
From the very beginning of the film, I felt that the acting was very weak -- the actors of the parents especially. This vastly improves as the movie goes on. I always find that most found-footage films have a hard time keeping their characters realistic. It really takes me out of the film when I can’t get away from the thought that these are people just acting and that I’m not watching footage that was actually found. I want to be able to believe their story. Luckily, the acting in this film was only poor for a few scenes at the very beginning but improves quite a bit shortly after.
Near the beginning of the film things begin to pick up pace rather quickly, which I was incredibly thankful for because these characters are not a very interesting bunch, and I do not know how much longer I could handle watching their boring, mundane family camping trip. En route to their next camping destination, their GPS starts glitching and recalculating before it stop working entirely. That’s when they come to a stop just outside of a long tunnel -- and discover several other vehicles stopped as well -- doors ajar, and with belongings either left untouched or strewn about. All of the vehicles are completely abandoned with no one in sight, and it sets a very eerie atmosphere of a place that was once clearly inhabited by a large group of people but now suddenly is completely silent. By this point, our crew is nearly out of gas and there is not a single soul around for as far as the eye can see – just an abandoned graveyard of vehicles and the most unsettling silence a person could ever experience. That’s when the father, the youngest son(/cameraman) and the daughter begin to walk through the tunnel to see if anyone is on the other side. About halfway through, the camera begins to glitch and what was once seemed to be a short tunnel with light at the end suddenly becomes a lot longer. The further they walk in, the further away the end seems to be. This set-up was so well-established that when things start to happen and we discover the reason no one is around, it’s downright terrifying.
Since this is a found-footage film and shot from the youngest son’s point-of-view, there is no background music or anything to encourage suspense or fear. It’s all brought upon the viewers naturally by the atmosphere of the film and the ambience and sound effects that you hear throughout. There is no dramatic music building up for things to come and encouraging you to be afraid -- you hear things as you would if you were the one experiencing these tragic and terrifying events. I always find this much more effective in horror films of any kind. Of course, music can add to suspense and fear, but I find in more recent films (such as Insidious, for example) that it is way too over-used. Sometimes what is most unsettling and effective in a horror film is plain ol’ dead silence.
I think it is important to mention that during the tunnel scene, the family does in fact encounter aliens in a scene that is very much reminiscent of the film Signs. We’re shown enough that we have a very strong idea of what they look like, but not so much that it takes away our fear of them. Very well done. I don’t want to spoil it, but I do want to say that I was impressed with the design of the aliens. This is exactly what I imagine an alien to look like.
At this point in the film, there’s constantly amazing build-up to the point that I found myself actually a little bit on-edge. Kudos to the writers and actors, because this was all shot during the daytime and still affected me. As the family is turning around in their car to leave, birds start falling from the sky and onto their car. This ripped me right out of the film and killed any fear that had grown when the family was in the tunnel. It was so outrageous and silly that it soured any tension that the filmmakers had done so well in achieving. Thankfully, this scene is short-lived, and as the film continues on they are able to rebuild the tension they had lost.
Another scene that had really stood out to me was when they were hiding out at a cabin in the woods, trying to reach anyone via radio to keep them updated or send help, and the man who owns the cabin gets a hold of his brother. The connection begins to cut out, and when it cuts back in we hear sickly screaming and absolutely unsettling noises. It sent shivers down my spine. By this point in the movie I’m feeling pretty stoked, because they are hitting every mark perfectly. This is exactly what I imagine the start of an alien invasion to be like. Our characters are terrified, and little things keep happening to build up the fear of what is going to happen next. I honestly thought that after we see what they aliens look like, the filmmakers were going to have a hard time keeping my interest and capturing the fear I had previously felt. This was not the case. Events kept happening to keep me on-edge and afraid of what will happen next, and they show literally just enough to make me afraid without overdoing it and conditioning me to the aliens. This is a difficult feat you achieve.
What happens to this family in this movie is something that you could only imagine in your worst nightmares. The creators of this film are obviously very passionate about aliens and wanted to portray them in a way that most people would imagine them being like. Everything from how the creatures looked, to the sounds they made, to the size of them, to the glowing bright lights, to the loud low tones from the unidentified flying objects in the sky – they really took all sorts of major elements from folklore and actual UFO sightings, and made it into something amazing. Like I’ve said previously, this is exactly how I imagine it would happen. Even though the ending was cheesy, it fit perfectly with how the rest of the movie played out. Although the likeliness of this footage ever being found was already highly unlikely and a little bit ridiculous, it had to happen somehow. This movie is a solid 7/10 for me. The acting could have been better and the story (although very common) wasn’t overly terrible. I am sure if this film had a higher budget to put toward production value and hiring more experienced actors, it could have been a real masterpiece.