Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent of Atrocities - Day1: Found. (2014)

"My brother keeps a human head in his closet."

Now that's my kind of opening line! But I didn't appreciate it right away. I knew the concept behind Found: What if a 12-year old horror movie fanatic found out his brother was a brutal, slasher-style serial killer? I was kind of disappointed that there was no build-up to his discovery. No emotion. Just a monotone stating of the facts.

My disappointment was misplaced. Found knows what the hell it is doing.

There's a blurb on the DVD cover from Elvira, Mistress of the Dark that describes the film, "As horror as horror can get." This 6-word summary pretty much renders my review unnecessary, but then, I never claimed to be necessary.

At it's heart, Found is a family drama with a focus on characters and relationships, a rare enough commodity in horror, almost unheard of for a slasher. One could argue that Found isn't really a slasher at all, since it bucks most of the genre's conventions. The body count is low, we don't actually see the majority of the murders, and the masked killer is revealed, maskless, at the beginning of the film. So if Found is not formally a slasher film, it at least was conceived and executed by filmmakers with a deep and abiding love for the genre.

I found out about Found at Beyond Hollywood, a movie site dedicated to highlighting foreign and genre films. It's based on a novel by the site's editor, Todd Rigney, who I've been reading for years. And let me tell you, the man has impeccable taste in movies. And he's done what I've only dreamed of: taking his expertise in cinema and creating his own movie. And a hell of a great one at that.

Found is the hardcore horror hound's horror film. Set somewhere in the late '80s/early '90s, the movie will give viewers of my generation the added treat of nostalgia for making the trip out to an honest-to-gods video store, complete with the lurid VHS covers in the horror section, situated right next to the becurtained adults-only closet of mysteries.

The most slasher-like part of Found is the movie-within-a-movie, Headless, which looks and feels like a genuine late 70's exploitation film that was slightly too underground to make it to the shelves of your local Blockbuster.

I'm the world's biggest sucker for coming-of-age stories, even the sweet ones. But throw in a macabre element and I'm in Heaven. Stand By Me, comes to mind, along with Hearts in Atlantis and Joyland. But honestly, Stephen King has never made anything this dark and outright disturbing. There's always an element of heartbreak in coming-of-age stories, and Found taps into that sadness expertly. Marty, the film's narrator and protagonist is in fifth grade and struggling to reconcile his adoration of his older brother Steve with his newfound knowledge that Steve is a serial murderer. To complicate things, both Marty and Steve are huge horror fans whose shared love of horror films is their one real point of bonding. So when Marty finds out that his brother's life is basically a horror movie, he can relate on some level. The thought of turning him in to the police never crosses his mind, even though he is a caring and sympathetic kid. As he's holding one of his brother's severed heads in his hands (he's not bad, just fascinated by death), he thinks, "At one point, it had thoughts and feelings, and it kissed somebody it loved. Now it's just a bloody head in a bowling ball bag."

The two brothers' relationship is central to the film, and while we're obviously supposed to sympathize with Marty, the movie goes out of its way to also paint Steve in a somewhat sympathetic light. We know from the film's first line that he's a psycho killer, but he's no faceless Michael Myers. No embodiment of pure evil. He's crazy, for sure, but capable of caring about people. Half the film's tension comes from wondering how far his love for Marty extends and whether he'd ever intentionally hurt him.

Now is the time to warn you that Found is extremely low-budget, which shows from time to time in the props and the performances. Look past it. There are no out-and-out bad performances in Found, just the air of inexperience surrounding some of the actors. Ethan Philbeck as Steve, for instance, has no other acting credits to his name (at least according to IMDB) and his inexperience shows. But that doesn't stop him from being super-creepy in most scenes and downright terrifying in the end.

The end. What can I say to express the sheer horror of this film's ending? You know, right from the opening moments, that this is a story that can't end well. The majority of the film's run time is spent making sure you care about the characters, and then... fan, meet shit. I must applaud Found's use of male nudity to amp up the ickyness factor sevenfold, as well as its determination to make the viewer do all the nasty work of imagining what we're not seeing. Then the final shot... FUCK. Just FUCK.

So if you don't mind your horror low-budget and you love it degenerate, soul-crushing, and nasty, go tell your boss you're sick ('cuz I know you're reading this at work), go home, and stream this from Amazon ASAP. Better yet, order the DVD because it's less than 8 bucks, and it comes with the full, uncut versions of two of the movies-within-a-movie featured in the film.

When you're done, come back and thank me profusely in the comments.

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