Imagine the following conversation:
Friend One: “What should we do today?”
Friend Two: “Dunno. Hey, is that a new camera?”
Friend One: “Yep, wanna go make a film?”
Friend Two: “Sure.”
We’re confident that isn’t exactly how it happened, but the debut feature from Matt Stuertz has all the hallmarks of being made entirely on the spur of the moment. Two friends who produce a web-based ghost hunting show head into some supposed haunted woods and film what they find. As they explore deeper they slowly begin to realise they are caught in some kind of loop, and they begin to see echoes of themselves over and over again, as if what they’ve filmed has been rewound.
If you are not a fan of the found footage format, then RWD is not the film to turn you around. Everything you probably hate about the genre, from the excessively shaky camera to the often-amateurish production is here. Yet despite the issues, and despite the rawness of the footage, there is something interesting going on behind the film.
Watching RWD you get the real sense that this is a filmmaker testing out his talent and pushing boundaries as far as he can. Stuertz clearly demonstrates vision and ability, but if he’s guilty of one thing, it is of being over ambitious. The convoluted plot is just too big for the resources and experience at his disposal. The effects are rough and at times somewhat irritating, but are clearly limited by a budget you suspect consists of little more than a packet of crisps and a can of Coke.
It’s very easy to dismiss a filmmaker trying to make their way, as just getting a film made and distributed at all is some feat. But any film must be assessed on its own merits and it must be said that RWD is not a good film. The action becomes as repetitive as the premise, the performances are just too ad-libbed leaving them feeling forced and a little awkward, and the direction is occasionally confusing. Stuertz, though, does demonstrate glimpses of the talent he would hone in his next film Tonight She Comes.
As a calling card for potential, RWD is a success, but as a film it doesn’t quite work. Too messy as a feature, it would possibly have worked better as a longer short. Everyone must start somewhere though.
RWD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MATT STUERTZ / SCREENPLAY: ADAM HARTLEY, MATT STUERTZ / STARRING: ADAM HARTLEY, MATT STUERTZ / RELEASE DATE: TBC