Rewind Review: 2008’s ‘Home Movie’

home-movie

Jack: “I dare you to stare until our movie is done. I bet you you can’t”

Home Movie is a “Found Footage” psychological Horror movie that dips its toes into elements of the supernatural. It is the directorial debut for actor Christopher Denham who also wrote the script. Straight up, if “Found Footage” isn’t your cup of tea, you’re not going to like it; Home Movie has the usual hallmarks that so many have grown to loathe: Shaky camerawork, grainy/dark/out-of-focus resolution, limited perspective, improve-style acting, etc. But if you do enjoy this particular subgenre (or are at least ambivalent) you should definitely read my thoughts on this film.

Check out my review after the jump.

Official Synopsis: Documents one family’s descent into darkness, using a compilation of found home-made footage. In the remote woods of upstate New York, the Poe family lives a Norman Rockwell life. Perfect house. Perfect marriage. If only the children stopped stapling frogs to trees. Something is very wrong with Jack and Emily Poe, the ten-year old twins. And, to stop them, their parents must enter the nightmare of their minds. The only question is: who will survive the night?

No doubt Home Movie suffers from the saturation of its subgenre; the Horror landscape has been literally flooded with “Found Footage” films since The Blair Witch Project changed that game back in 1999 (that’s 15 years ago now people!). Horror fans have become, understandably, weary of these movies, a condition I call “Found Footage Fatigue”. While there are those who would love to see the subgenre banished into oblivion, it’s important to consider why “Found Footage” strikes a chord in the first place.

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First and foremost: Realism. “Found Footage” is based on the illusion of reality: We trade slick production, expensive FX, and orchestral soundscapes for an experience that feels actual and unscripted—like so many of life’s elusive moment. There are even more benefits to “Found Footage” when you look at a filmmaker’s perspective, especially independents. It’s a money saver: Out of date, inexpensive cameras work just as well (if not better) than high-tech gear. “Found Footage” allows for the use of actual location, eliminating (in most cases) the need for sets. No one’s expecting jaw-dropping visuals, so FX budgets can be kept to a minimum. Also, “Found Footage” works best when the dialog feels real, so it’s possible to cut script-writing down to a minimum and benefit from actor improve. It’s a subgenre that, in many ways, feels tailor-made for students and budding filmmakers and, for these reasons, I don’t expect “Found Footage” to disappear anytime soon.

So if you never heard about Home Movie until now, it’s probably because it got lost in the mob its peers, which is a damn shame, because it’s an excellent movie. In addition to being “Found Footage”, it also fits into the “Creepy Kids” subgenre of Horror movies, alongside The Children, Wicked Little Things, and The Bad Seed. Home Movie’s premise is deceptively simple; the film is deeply nuanced and loaded with subtext. Father/Husband David Poe (Adrian Pasdar) is a pastor and Mother/Wife Clare (Cady McClain) is a pediatric psychotherapist. If they sound like a bit of a miss-match, that’s because they are. But this dichotomy is what gives the film its surprising depth and intelligence.

In some respects, watching Home Movie is like being present at a debate competition where the topic being tackled is Childhood Dysfunction. Team David argues for the spiritual approach emphasizing faith and religion; Team Clare speaks for science and medicine. In other words: God versus Pills. If that isn’t a current, relevant hot-button issue then I don’t know what is; it’s a loaded with strong opinions on both sides and Home Movie benefits from this. The conflicts between David and Clare as they each attempt to find a “cure” for their kids parallels the actual complexity of this issue.

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Home Movie is taut, intense, and creepy as hell. The 10 year-old twins Jack and Emily (Austin Williams and Amber Joy Williams respectively) are excellently unnerving. They’re bad seeds of the most rotten variety: Brutally violent yet silent and somber as phantoms. While Dr. Clare correctly hypothesizes that these kids are future psychopaths in training, it’s easy to see why Pastor David begins to give-in to the possibility that his children are possessed by demons. A scene when the Jack and Emily piss on the floor in unison is absolutely an allusion to The Exorcist and even their movements appear, at times, supernatural. The twin’s school uniforms make them both look like little Damiens—and how about the fact that they attack a classmate named “Christian”? But like the complex debates that rage around issues of Child Psychology, there are no easy answers to the questions presented in Home Movie. So in the end, we’re left asking ourselves which is scarier: A demonic kid, or a kid that’s just plain evil?

Home Movie serves as a shining reminder that a good “Found Footage” film is a glorious middle-finger in the face of a technology-obsessed industry, one where ridiculously expensive equipment and overpriced actors have basically created a caste system in the filmmaking community. With 5 actors and one camera, Christopher Denham delivers a thriller with more kick than most Hollywood blockbusters are even expected to produce. Believe me, if Home Movie had been made and released in 1998, The Blair Witch Project would probably have been seen for what it really is: A weak, poorly executed example of “Found Footage”. Fans of the subgenre need to get the word out that Home Movie is platinum—definitely one of the best “Found Footage” films I’ve ever seen.

4 out of 5 Skull Heads.

Trailer: HERE

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Directed by Christopher Denham
Produced by William M. Miller Andrew van den Houten
Written by Christopher Denham
Starring Adrian Pasdar, Cady McClain, Amber Joy Williams, Austin Williams
Music by Ryan Shore
Cinematography William M. Miller
Editing by John T. Miller
Distributed by IFC Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment

 

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About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: https://bloodandgutsforgrownups.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Saucy Josh

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