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One line summary: Small budget, but good acting, story, and direction.
------------------------- Setup and Plot
Journalist Anne Roland's college friend James has gone missing. Renny, the last man to see him alive has also gone missing after being interviewed extensively by police. Anne pursues; her editor helps by connecting her to gonzo journalist/personality Thomas Blackburn. She hopes that Blackburn will increase her knowledge of the drug that James ingested as an experiment for his next book.
During a visit to Blackburn's house, Anne meets his chemist friend Callie, who has synthesized some of the drug. The trio drinks smaller quantities than James took, but the effects are still strong. When Blackburn and Anne wake up from the drug's knockout punch, Callie is nowhere to be found.
Interleaved with the contemporary story are bits of archival footage that chronicle government experiments with some similar effects. The electricity is temporarily lost, screaming ensues, the patients get free of restraints, and the patients are not to be found immediately.
Blackburn and Anne find Callie's lab, which contains a number of clues. Will this be enough to let Anne solve the riddle of James' disappearance?
Cinematography: 6/10 There was a lot of archival film (black and white, low resolution, blurry) and shaky cam footage (variable, but mostly bad). However, unlike many other directors, Erickson seemed to know quite well how to use bad footage to increase the feeling of threat and isolation that thrillers need.
Sound: 8/10 The music and foley were good for increasing suspense and creepiness.
Acting: 8/10 Katia Winter and Ted Levine had a large percent of all the spoken lines. Both of them did fine jobs.
Screenplay: 8/10 The script was not perfect, but did keep my attention. The plot moved forward quickly enough that my usual strong disgust for found film was not invoked. The providing of just enough clues to keep going was well done, and the exposition of motivations was nicely executed. About the time that I thought the film was more of an adventure/thriller, the ending reminded me that it was truly a horror movie. Well done.
One line summary: A solid story that looks more than a bit dated now.
Lisa visits her medical doctor sister Jenny in Snowfield, Colorado for a reunion and perhaps a ski vacation. When they return to town from the airport, Jenny's housekeeper is dead, which is the first level of surprise. They find just about everyone else in town is dead.
In the second segment, the sisters encounter Sheriff Bryce, and Deputies Wargle and Shanning. The quintet snoop around a bit, and the deputies are killed mysteriously. The Sheriff manages to make outside contact before the telephones and radios are rendered inactive.
In the third round, the US government sends in a team to investigate. The team includes Dr. Flyte, since the Sheriff mentioned him in his communication. The organism they are dealing with absorbs the military and the investigators, except for Dr. Flyte, a solid scientist who has become a paranormal investigator.
After not hearing from their party, the government decides to send in more personnel. Meanwhile, Flyte, the sisters, and the Sheriff attempt to find a way to deal with the threat.
Will they succeed, or is everyone out of luck?
Cinematography: 8/10 Well done for the most part. Some of the SFX look a bit dated, but still OK.
Sound: 8/10 Rather good at rendering the atmosphere of the unknown and the unexpected. Sometimes it feels a bit over the top, though.
Acting: 6/10 Peter O'Toole was fine, but this was not one of the better efforts of Ben Affleck or Liev Schreiber.
Screenplay: 6/10 Usually I am a fan of Koontz, but this screenplay seems to be one of his more mediocre efforts.
Elizabeth Benton gets a university grant to explore and classify what she finds online in chat rooms. She sees much of what she expected in terms of diverse activities, but she also encounters something rather disturbing. A chat room user will not show their face. This is followed by that user hacking her computer, recording (and replaying) intimate dealings between her and boyfriend Damian, then showing her what appears to be a snuff video.
The police show some interest, but do not have enough facts to go forward in the investigation. As more odd goings-on occur, the police become irritated with her for wasting their time. Damien tries to help in tracking down those involved, but the miscreant has considerable skill. He hacks her account, severely hurts her relationship with her thesis committee, and does even worse things to her family.
Cut off from most of her support group, can Liz help her family and save herself?
Cinematography: 4/10 Varies considerably. Some is excellent and professional; some is the worst side of shaky cam.
Sound: 6/10 Also varies considerably. Endless groaning and breathing is not all that worthwhile.
Screenplay: 7/10 As a story about possible downsides to modern social media interactions, it is fairly good. It might have been told better without the shaky cam and the poor sound.
One line summary: Yet another forgettable found film pseudo-documentary.
The Morris family drives in the North Carolina mountains near Brown Mountain during vacation. Some unnerving events, such as dead crows falling from the sky onto their van, contribute to the family getting lost on the winding mountain trails.
Then follows the usual failure of electronics, such as GPS, cell phones, and radio. One of the more discouraging phenomena was the finding of a whole large tunnel full of vehicles separated from their owners.
After more scary passages, some of the Morris family finds Sean, a local who likes guns. He helps them as best he can, but that is not good enough.
How many of the family survive and return to civilisation? Does the 'documentary' impart any particular wisdom?
Cinematography: 4/10 Found film and worse.
Sound: 6/10 The sound added some edge to the proceedings, and I could usually make out the dialog.
Screenplay: 5/10 The story did sort of hang together despite the cinematography.
One line summary: Clever ending to a short subject.
Aaron and Jim get to know Terrance, a colorful conspiracy theorist. They were gearing up to do a documentary film with Terrance as the center when Terrance disappears, and his apartment is rifled.
Aaron and Jim are galvanized, and pursue Terrance's interests. Their investigation leads them to research the Tarsus Club, the 'New World Order,' and the cult of Mithras, which stretches back quite far in history. Jim has a wife and child to keep him centered, but ends up continuing with the effort to find the elusive 'truth.' Clips from an interview with a psychiatrist sprinkled throughout the film are another grounding mechanism, and a warning of bad things to come.
The pair manage to get into a meeting of the Tarsus Club. Their recording devices were on tie-clips, and the results were correspondingly unimpressive.
The Tarsus Club does a good job of scaring Aaron and Jim. Afterwards, Jim gets to go to a recorded meeting with an official of the Tarsus Club. The spin or the truth? Which one gets delivered more by the film?
Cinematography: 5/10 The film is filmed in both hand-held and more standard camera techniques. The found-film part does not add anything, but does subtract a bit. The segement concerning the Mithras cultist meeting was particularly visually poor. The vignette filter cut off a chunk of the screen; faces were blurred out; over all resolution was VHS-style grainy; the smoke was good at cutting down on clarity.
Sound: 6/10 Adequate; I can usually understand the dialog. Voices were disguised during the outdoor initiation meeting of the Tarsus club.
Acting: 5/10 Giving the benefit of the doubt.
Screenplay: 6/10 The ending ties together the rest of the film nicely.