By Ross Stewart
In space no-one can hear you scream. But they can hear you bullshit. That is easily the best way to describe horror movie ‘Apollo 18’. From the moment the trailer first hit the net it has been touting itself as ‘real’ as in ‘it really happened’. That’s right unbelievers, NASA didn’t stop sending astronauts to the moon after Apollo 17, no, no, there was one more mission, the titular Apollo 18. They found something so terrible, so monstrous, so horrific (according to Michael Bay they found Transformers) that the footage was hidden away and only released now.
At least that’s what the filmmakers want you to believe. And you believe it don’t you?
Of course you don’t. Even if the marketing campaign had been incredibly convincing it would only take one look at the trailer for you to realise that there is no way it’s real. Unless that is astronauts are actually just really terrible actors. Still a great marketing campaign can elevate a mediocre film into cinematic history. Want proof? Then cast your minds back to 1999. It was a simpler time, we discovered we were all living in ‘The Matrix’ and ‘The Simpsons’ was still funny. Then from out of nowhere a trailer arrived, it was grainy and badly shot, looking like it belonged on ‘You’ve Been Framed’. The actors weren’t recognisable; in fact they didn’t seem to be actors at all. And what was all this talk of a witch? The title flashed up on the screen: ‘The Blair Witch Project’. It wasn’t a film though, it was actual footage. It happened…apparently.
If you wanted further proof then a quick trawl around the internet led you to stories of the Blair Witch and haunting posters proclaiming the people that had filmed the footage were missing. For a brief few moments you believed, this was a film about three people who had wandered into the woods, encountered something evil and gone missing.
This found footage was the only clue to what had happened.
It was genius. It really was. The film itself…not so much. Sure, it had its moments but it really drags in places, you can’t always work out what is going on and the characters are teeth grindingly annoying. But none of that mattered because there was a small kernel of doubt in the back of your mind that what you were watching had all really happened. It was the marketing campaign from heaven and it turned a film that cost less than a widescreen TV into a massive hit.
Not only that, suddenly anyone with a camcorder believed they could get rich from filming their mates arseing around in the woods after dark. Some people even completely redesigned their house including adding a stairwell just to get their chance to make a film that would top the Blair Witch for lo-fi scares. This crazy redecorator was Oren Peli, director of ‘Paranormal Activity’; a simple film using a static camera filming a couple sleeping for most of its running time. The film was such a success that a third part was released just a few months ago at Halloween.
‘Found’ footage films have also made their way into the big budget arena with ‘Cloverfield’, which provided a unique take on the giant monster genre. It’s an interesting example of Hollywood using the intimate (not to mention nauseating) first person perspective and marrying it to elaborate special effects and set pieces. This approach has also been taken with the release of ‘Troll Hunter’ which is one of the freshest and most fun filled viewing experiences of the last year (it’s also Norwegian which automatically makes it cooler than anything coming out of Hollywood).
The best ‘found’ footage films though are Spanish shockers ‘REC’ and ‘REC2’, which contain some of the best and most frightening uses of first person POV. Avoid the American remake ‘Quarantine’ though which is pretty much shot for shot of the first ‘REC’ but with half the atmosphere and scares. Remember though, you are not watching real footage… apart from ‘Troll Hunter’.
Trolls are real.