You’ll remember the ’found footage’ movie craze, of course. The rise of affordable video recording facilities - that mobile phone you’re probably reading this review on, for example - made it possible for anyone with half an idea (usually the same idea) to wander off into a nearby wood or park with a few mates to knock up some cheap horror movie topped and tailed by a caption explaining how the film you’re watching fell into the hands of the authorities and - gasp - the people in the film were never seen again. Most of these films were tedious rubbish (although, as with any genre, there were a few notable higher profile exceptions) and no-one was hugely devastated when it appeared that the craze was dying out and we could all go back to watching proper films made by people with more than a slight clue what they were doing. Imagine our joy at stumbling across Catskill Park, a worrying throwback to the dismal days when stuff like this came our way with a regularity that made us briefly consider giving it all up and becoming estate agents.
Thankfully, Catskill Park doesn’t herald a resurgence in ‘found footage’ fodder; this was made in 2012 and, for reasons we’re not very interested in, finally surfaces some considerable time after the ship has sailed. Following the obligatory ‘military warning’ caption, we meet a bunch of stereotypes working in the production office of a low-rent reality TV show, and one of them has a brand new video camera with which - wait for it - he films everything and everyone. A bland gang of four traipse out to Catskill Park in New York where it begins, unseasonably, to snow, and during the night their campsite is illuminated by an unearthly light. A UFO has appeared and attempts to scoop up one of their number. Cue much shrieking, gasping, grunting and annoying shakycam action as the survivors of the group run around the woods trying to find a way back to civilisation.
Catskill Park does, however, have a little bit more to offer than many of its pitilessly poor predecessors, thanks to some decent production values which offer up a few interesting visuals. The UFO abduction scene is well done, and brief flashes of alien creatures darting through the trees (and their howling hunting sounds) manage to build up an effective sense of escalating dread. But by its very nature, the film can’t help but fall into all the clichés of the genre, from the unlikeliness of anyone in their right mind carrying on filming in such dire circumstances to endless wobbly scenes filmed when people are running and shouting ‘Jesus Christ, oh my God’ and various associated declarations of distress.
Hopefully Catskill Park is the final belated gasp of this creatively-bankrupt genre of cheap film-making. It has more to offer than many we’ve endured in the past, but it’s really only worth your time if you genuinely can’t get enough of this stuff.
CATSKILL PARK / CERT: / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VLAD YUDIN / STARRING: LAUREN FRANCESCA, KATELYN PEARCE, WENN YHAN SHIH, GREGORY LAY, GIO PEREZ/ RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW