Found footage films seems to be all the rage these days. I mean, I know it became such a popular device since “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” as those films successfully tried the feeling of ‘real footage‘ and of a real documentary. The power of suggestion is key to such films, but ever since “The Fourth Kind“ which took that gimmick a little too far, directors Sean Bardin and Robert Cooley tries to take it even further as they were said to have protested the speculation that the film “Unaware“ was a mockumentary. This brought criticism to the filmmakers during its screening in theaters.
Up to this day, the names of the actors still have not been revealed and production details have been closely guarded to give the film the feeling of an enigma. It also does not have any credits save for Bardin and Cooley, and this dvd does show acknowledgement to certain people that includes Oren Peli. The film is cut from the same cloth as the original “Paranormal Activity” as it follows a couple, Lisa and Joe. They drive down to a isolated house around Texas owned by Joe’s grandparents, and they drop by unannounced. They find the house empty as Joe’s family will not be back for a few days. Instead of leaving, the two decide to spend the weekend anyway, as the two become closer than ever. However, Joe’s curiosity gets the best of him as he remembers vividly that as a child he has been forbidden to go anywhere near his grandfather’s shed. As Joe begins to unravel the secrets in the shed, Lisa is dragged along with him. Things take a very shocking and unnerving turn as they uncover Roy’s (Joe’s grandfather) past with the military and this secret may just take them to a point with no return.
I am not really sure how to describe what I have seen without spoilers, so let us just say that the film is about aliens and a possible government cover up. The direction was quite solid in what it wanted to do, as the camerawork was successful in mimicking the angles, the timing, the roughness of a real footage. Lisa and Joe did feel like that they were really on vacation, the camera moved the same way regular folks would hold their camera, and just how they would leave it shooting without a tripod. The POV style cinematography looked very authentic and natural, that it was easy to buy into the feeling of looking through someone else’s eyes.
I do have to admit the film is a slow burn. It takes a lot longer than I thought to get going. Nothing much happens until the 45 minute mark. The development of the characters are also pretty dreary, but since the film was trying to replicate ‘found footage’, I could excuse that. It is all about the lovebirds sharing one romantic moment and then talking about what they wanted to do around the house. The motivations behind Lisa and Joe were questionable, especially when they begin to open things up in the shed. Things just did not add up, and seriously, this is where the film fails with the flow of the script. I thought that it was doubtful that two people would have such a reaction to such a situation, and it required a suspension of disbelief.
It was a good thing that the performances were good for the most part. Lisa and Joe felt positively natural in their roles, although things got a little rough in the shed, they did connect as well as a real couple would. Joe is also a little better written than Lisa, albeit Lisa was the one thing that made the sense of horror effective in the final act. The way she screamed and showed that sense of panic was strong enough to induce the chills in the final minutes of the film. I thought it was wise for the direction to keep things simple as when to generate terror.
Given the film’s lack of budget, it does get by well without the use of CGI and instead relies on shadows, well-placed lights and sounds to induce thrills. The aliens wore rubber suits without the enhancement of CGI, but with the careful editing and smart angling of the shots, they looked alright. I do have to say that this was the point that the filmmakers probably should’ve given up the ‘real footage’ mumbo jumbo since the aliens looked familiar and it was obvious that they were actors in rubber suits.
I know there would be many viewers who would say that the film is very slow and that nothing much happens in the movie. The film also does have several areas of the script that just did not fit, and I thought that after the 51 minute mark it became rather predictable. I do question why some things were the way they turned out as motivation was really lacking both with the couple and the aliens. Cooley and Bardin really wanted their movie to become an enigma, but I just wasn’t sure if that was the intention or just that the script ran away from them. Be that as it may, it built to a good climax, however unsatisfying the screenplay was, the last moments in the film can be chilling. This is the kind of movie meant to fans of the ‘found footage’ gimmick, if you aren’t down with that, then you better just stay away.