DVD REVIEW: FOUND / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SCOTT SCHIRMER / SCREENPLAY: SCOTT SCHIRMER / STARRING: GAVIN BROWN, ETHAN PHILBECK, PHYLLIS MUNRO, LOUIE LAWLESS, ALEX KOGIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Found may have the appearance of a random stalk n’ slash cheapie but there is a bit more going on behind the visors of this gasmask-clad blend of coming of age drama and gruesome horror. Found tells the story of young, horror movie loving, Marty (Brown) who finds his older brother Steve (Philbeck) is harbouring a dark secret - namely storing severed heads in his bowling bag (talk about your brother doing your head in). From early on, Steve’s dark secret is revealed - as are the families' more menial secrets (mum’s old love letters, dad’s porn stash) - but the strength of Schirmer’s film really comes from how much is being tackled in the drama. This is Marty’s story (the character occasionally narrates - which really adds a shock to the lingering final frame) and in turn is one that many people will connect with aspects of.
The horror soon bleeds in (oh boy does it!) but for long enough, Found is similar to Abrams’ Super 8, only swapping the sci-fi with VHS violence. The film is crafted with affection for the genre, especially the violent boundary-pushing slashers of the 80s, the dark work of Clive Barker (Hellraiser and Nightbreed are mentioned by name) and trash Horror cults like Larry Buchanan’s It’s Alive (see the Deep Dweller short), and Douglas Cheek’s C.H.U.D. Scott Schirmer clearly knows the game and his film almost feels like a huge feature-length segment of the V/H/S series, indeed the plot is heavily influenced by '80s VHS rental culture - which admittedly makes the actual setting hard to decipher. Found sets their sights on an age in which kids are fascinated by scary (or more aptly gory) movies and mixes in such murderous impulses with the turbulence of early teenage life (school bullying, male bravado, and that progression from childhood to adulthood).
The performances are inconsistent, with some emerging stronger than others but nobody holds the film back. The biggest star is young Gavin Brown, who is remarkable as Marty and carries much of the film’s weight - rare praise for a film driven by a young character. He is likable and rootable, even in the film’s more confrontational moments. Ethan Phillbeck is also effectively disturbed as Marty’s head cleaving (and come the climax, completely insane) brother Steve. Phyllis Munro and Louie Lawless as mum and dad do have the odd stiff line of dialogue, but are believable in their parts. In fact, despite some online scorn, the performances are good all round, aside from the odd few awkwardly delivered lines (mainly Munro, Lawless or Alex Kogin’s character in particular).
The plot is an interesting take on the suburban serial killer story; with the family drama being intercut by the violent movie watching sessions (Deep Dweller and Headless - both an invention of this film), that offer some grindhouse-esque homages throughout. However, as the story steepens emotionally, the finale is the literal boiling over, where the moments of suspense and thought take a turn that is as subtle as a power drill to the temple and every bit as bloody. The conclusion leaves you disturbed - mostly by what you can’t see (thankfully)- although this does leave the viewer in a quandary. Schirmer is clearly a lover of this genre and knows his films, and yet the film comes to suggest that horror and onscreen violence makes monsters of us. It is a slight contradiction to the story; mind you, better a film boast an argument or debate that is lighter on depth, than boast no insights at all.
In many ways you could say this is an issue throughout to Found, this is a smart movie but one ruled by too many thoughts and nods, which mean some ideas go nowhere. The racist element of the story for instance, is an underdeveloped idea, delivered with all the logic of those real-life individuals who excuse racial violence under some misguided ideology of “they comin’ over here stealin’ our jobs”, although perhaps that is the point. Likewise with the homophobic element; in fact, the prejudicial aspect seems like it is present, as more of an extra twist of the knife (so to speak) to modern or (considering the VHS tapes in the film) recent America, than a fully developed arc of the story. Found has aspirations, some of which it hits and some of which it misses and in that regard it is not as effective as the (occasionally similar) The Dirties from this year. Although it is far more grisly, indeed if Hostel’s blowtorch eye scene gave you a case of the gags, you may want to give the Headless movie scene the hand over eyes treatment.
Found delivers far more than expected and from some grindhouse homages to a rather compelling story, it is hard to call this (despite a few missteps) anything other than a great feature from a promising and passionate talent. It may well divide some with its debates on violence, faith and how to tackle the issues of youth, but even in its most unsettling moments (that climax really does stick with you), this is an entertaining, dark, vision. Offering moments of childlike horror analogous to Joe Dante’s work in that area, gruesome gory horror with a '80s edge and a coming of age story at its core, Found covers a lot of ground and is influenced by a range of directors. Think Boyhood through the eyes of Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth and Dario Argento.
Extras: Making Of, Trailer, Gag Reel, Deep Dweller Short Film, Deep Dweller Making Of, Other Monster Film Titles
Expected Rating: 5