OK, look: I happen to like the found-footage-films. (So sue me, ‘Merica!) Granted, not all of them are all that they could be, what with the sometimes wildly shaky camera work, uncharacteristically poor sound work, and the sometimes point-by-point predictability to it all. At their core, however, I’d argue that found-footage-films still have that unique ability to muster up enough raw reality that they can (A) tell an interesting story, (B) try to do something different visually, and (C) scare the bejesus out of audiences IF (and only IF) the idea works effectively from start-to-finish.
We know “it’s a jungle out there,” but did THE JUNGLE show up with its A-game?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “An exploration deep into the Indonesian rainforest to find and tag the elusive Javan Leopard leads conservationist Larry Black (Rupert Reid) and his team on a path of terror. When their expedition uncovers evidence of a horrifying new species, they realize the legendary ‘forest demon’ feared by natives is more than just a myth.”
Now – to be fair – there’s a bit of misinformation in that synopsis as provided by the studio’s advertisers. I hate to spoil it but it really isn’t a relevant plot point: no one on this expedition quite believes they’ve uncovered any new species. Up until the proof is right before their very eyes, all of these participants are fully believing that what’s lurking in THE JUNGLE is an Earthly predator. In fact, I’d argue it’s their collective denial to see the mystery for what it is that pushes most of them onward to the point of nearly breaking, though one of the guides does voice some reservations about what they’ve already witnessed.
With that minor little qualifier out of the way, let me assure you that THE JUNGLE is about as pure of a found-footage-film that audiences have had in some time. Other franchises have tried to up their efforts by utilizing some multiple camera techniques; and – while there are ways that this story incorporates more than a single viewpoint – this thriller/chiller actually is a bit of a narrative throwback to a time when all you had was a single defining view of whatever crisis unfolded. In that respect, THE JUNGLE works very efficiently, showing us these events while the cameraman provides modest verbal narration to the calmer moments.
But what makes this film a bit different is that unlike many others in the genre is that there is no ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’ at work. It’s kinda/sorta grounded in reality, leaving all of those supernatural elements in the background (though there are plenty of hints of their existence). For most practical purposes, THE JUNGLE plays out like a monster movie of the old days – something here is amiss, the danger is real, and no one stops for a second to try to figure out why. I’d argue that you pretty much are assured going in that these men are not coming out alive, albeit their camera will someday be found and their footage cobbled together.
On that front, I thought THE JUNGLE was pretty terrific. Like when the whole ‘found’ phenomenon began, it tries to once again be fun with its scares, ponying them up almost as if to spite the audience instead of rolling them out one-after-one. Sure, there’s more than a fair share of predictability to it, but isn’t that half the fun?
THE JUNGLE (2013) is produced by Mysterious Light, and the product packaging implies that there was some participation by Lightning Entertainment. DVD distribution is being handled by E One Entertainment (aka E One). As for the technical specification, this is one of those ‘found footage’ films, so keep in mind it’ll have the usual quality of sights and sounds associated to it (though I’ll admit that the sound was much better than I’ve seen on so many others). Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then I’ll have to disappoint you and say there’s only the theatrical trailer here. (A disappointment.)
RECOMMENDED. Hey, if you’re not experiencing found-footage-fatigue like so many others are, then you might just wanna head out to the video store and rent a copy of THE JUNGLE. As found-footage flicks go, this one has a pureness of spirit about it that honestly doesn’t come along all that often. What you see is what you get, along with a fateful moral that you should be far more afraid of what you don’t see as opposed to what you do.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at E One Entertainment (aka Entertainment One) provided me with a DVD copy of THE JUNGLE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.