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Editorial: An Apologist’s Rant: In Defense of Found Footage

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In the four-plus years that I have been reviewing films, I’ve gained a reputation among my friends and fellow critics as someone with strong – and often negative – opinions of horror movies. My opinions about horror are often met with disdain, as the majority of my reviews within the genre tend to lean toward the negative.

Editorial: An Apologist's Rant: In Defense of Found Footage

This isn’t due to any sort of innate desire to be contentious, or become notorious a la Armond White; it just sort of happens. I have high standards, cultivated over years of immersing myself in the genre and discovering what I truly like within it. It’s worse with found footage. As an unabashed and rather vocal fan of the increasingly popular first-person format, I often find myself defending the sub-genre while writing scathing reviews of the majority of the found footage films that have been released over the past few years.

Believe me when I say that it’s difficult to reconcile my love of the sub-genre while simultaneously dismissing many of the films that fall under its umbrella; I can count the number of found footage horror films I truly enjoy on one hand, and two of them contain the words “paranormal activity.” For that alone I’m often the target of criticism, especially when it’s revealed that I consider the first film in Oren Peli’s popular series to be one of the best horror films of the past decade.

Editorial: An Apologist's Rant: In Defense of Found Footage

It’s also difficult to ignore the fact that Peli is arguably the progenitor of found footage as a popular and, perhaps more importantly, profitable medium. Despite receiving widespread negative reviews, the recent release of The Devil Inside simply reaffirmed that low budget + high marketability = profit for studio. The film cost an estimated $1 million to make, yet due to a strong marketing campaign brought in almost $100,000,000 at the box office. This formula, of course, is keeping found footage horror alive, much to the chagrin of many horror fans.

Found footage is a major bone of contention among those who take their horror very seriously. You rarely hear from those who take a neutral approach, as the extremes on either end are quick to voice their opinions on blogs and forums. The most common complaint lies in the approach most of these films take–namely, sacrificing a cohesive story and compelling characters for cheap scares, coupled with an “it’s so easy anyone can do it!” attitude. If you look at most of the films that have come out over the past couple of years, it’s hard to not agree. Paranormal Activity took a different tack, preferring instead to focus much of the story on the couple while they sleep, giving the viewer a more standard narrative-based approach. It’s here where we’re treated to the more frightening aspects of the film (save for one scene toward the end that blew my mind); in a way it’s emulating the traditional narrative style while still giving it a more personal touch.

Editorial: An Apologist's Rant: In Defense of Found Footage

It’s here where we first see just exactly what Paranormal Activity does right and, ironically, most found footage horror films after it have done wrong. If you’re going to carry around a camera, have A) a reason to be doing so, and B) the foresight to put the damned the thing down when your life is danger. Given the frequency of this complaint, it’s surprising most just simply don’t accept it and move on. Alas, this trend tends to pigeonhole a great many found footage films, compelling the filmmaker to employ the common setup of “someone filming for the sake of filming.” Even after the chaos starts, the filming continues, defying logic and common sense in an effort to create a movie. Suspension of disbelief is almost always necessary in a horror film, but the egregiousness to which this is employed is almost unforgivable.

Paranormal Activity managed to skirt these issues by confining the danger not to a location, but to a person. Micah’s decision to film everything can be explained away by comparing his fascination with the camera to that of a young child and a new toy; he wants to use it whenever possible, even if the situation doesn’t necessarily call for it. Furthermore, as a skeptic, he’s less inclined to feel frightened or threatened by the demon that haunts Katie, which in turn makes his camera use all the more realistic. While this does change toward the end of the film, it’s a minor moment in a film filled with plenty of good ones.

In the end, however, Paranormal Activity works not because it’s got a great story or because it adheres to made-up rules regarding found footage (though it certainly helps), but because it represents real fears and portrays them in a way that the audience can relate to. It’s the very real notion that you’re not safe in your house, compounded by the fact that you can’t even leave. Whether or not you believe in ghosts or demons is irrelevant; the fear of the unknown, of the darkness, is universal.

Editorial: An Apologist's Rant: In Defense of Found Footage

And that’s precisely where found footage succeeds. By giving a narrow viewpoint of what can be seen, we’re forced to become a character in the film. What they see is what we see, and it’s something that lends itself to horror in a significant way. Not every film is going to lend itself toward this sort of fear – Cloverfield, for example, is more thrilling than genuinely scary – but with found footage, the possibility is far greater. It represents the fear and uncertainty of actually be in a haunted house; it represents the confusion of being lost in the woods; and it represents the intrinsic fears found in all of us. Some work, some don’t, but when it comes to fear, found footage is the front runner, and I hope the trend never dies.

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Synapse’s Suspiria 4K Restoration Gets a Release Date

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Earlier this year, we wrote about Synapse Films’ Suspiria 4K restoration and how it was available for pre-order. The weird catch was that there was no release date confirmed and that pre-orders would go out sometime in December 2017. Today that changes as we can confirm that the 3-disc special edition Blu-ray collection will come out December 19th, just in time for Christmas but a little late for Hanukkah. Any chance we can have one extra night this year?

Restored over three years, Synapse has been working tirelessly to create the ultimate version of Dario Argento’s 1977 classic supernatural horror film, which has since gone on to become one of the most recognized and lauded titles in the genre. This cut has been overseen and approved by Luciano Tovoli, the Director of Photography on the film.

Pre-orders are still available via Synapse Films’ website.

Special features:
*Limited edition of only 6000 units produced
*Exclusive Steelbook packaging and collector’s o-card sleeve, featuring artwork from Malleus, Van Orton Design, Juan José Saldarriaga & Chris MacGibbon
*Three disc [Two Blu-rays + One CD] limited collector’s edition (only 6000 units) containing a new 4K restoration of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative exclusively done by Synapse Films, with color correction supervised and approved by SUSPIRIA Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli
*Original 4.0 1977 English language LCRS sound mix not heard since the theatrical release in 1977, presented in high-resolution DTS-HD MA 96 Khz/24-bit audio
*Italian 5.1 surround sound mix
*Two audio commentaries by authors and Argento scholars, Derek Botelho, David Del Valle & Troy Howarth
*Do You Know Anything About Witches? – 30 minute SUSPIRIA visual essay written, edited and narrated by Michael Mackenzie
*Suzy in Nazi Germany – Featurette on the German locations from SUSPIRIA
*A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of SUSPIRIA – All-new anniversary retrospective on the making of the film and its influence on cinema
*Olga’s Story – Interview with star Barbara Magnolfi
*Original theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots
*Special Collector Edition Booklet containing an American Cinematographer interview with Luciano Tovoli, liner notes by Derek Botelho and restoration notes by Vincent Pereira & Don May, Jr. Cover artwork by Matthew Therrien Illustration
*“International Classics” English “Breathing Letters” opening credit sequence from U.S. release version
*Alternate All-English opening and closing credits sequences, playable via seamless branching
*Newly translated, removable English SDH subtitles for the English language version
*Newly translated, removable English subtitles for the Italian language version
*Exclusive CD remaster of Goblin’s SUSPIRIA motion picture soundtrack, containing additional tracks not included on the original 1977 soundtrack release

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Creep 2 Starring Mark Duplass Hits Netflix This December

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Just the other day we shared with you guys an exclusive interview with Partick Brice, the director of the Mark Duplass-starring found footage flicks Creep and Creep 2.

Today we have the awesome news that the killer sequel Creep 2 (review) will be hitting Netflix streaming on December 23rd.

The original creeptastic motion picture is already streaming on Netflix so if you need to catch up – or just watch the original again – you can do so tonight and get ready for the sequel which, personally, I found to be superior (if even just slightly) to the original.

What did you think of the original film? Are you excited to check out the sequel? Or have you already seen it? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

Creep 2 starring Mark Duplass and Desiree Akhavan hits Netflix December 23rd!

Synopsis:

Desiree Akhavan (“Girls”, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR) stars as Sara, a video artist whose primary focus is creating intimacy with lonely men. After finding an ad online for “video work,” she thinks she may have found the subject of her dreams. She drives to a remote house in the forest and meets a man claiming to be a serial killer (Mark Duplass, reprising his role from the previous film). Unable to resist the chance to create a truly shocking piece of art, she agrees to spend the day with him. However, as the day goes on she discovers she may have dug herself into a hole she can’t escape.

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Waxwork Records Unveils Phenomenal 2018 Subscription Package

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Our pals over at Waxwork Records have unveiled their 2018 subscription bundle and it’s packed to the brim with some absolutely fantastic titles! Horror fans who enjoy spinning their music on turntables can look forward to two Romero titles, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, and lastly they’ll have Jordan Peele’s smash success title Get Out. On top of getting those five records, those who join the subscription program will also receive a t-shirt, coffee mug, poster, notebook, magnet, enamel pin, calendar, and more.

For Night of the Living Dead, Waxwork Records worked closely with the film’s original creators, including Romero himself prior to his passing, the Museum of Modern Art, and The Criterion Collection so that they could source audio from the 4K restoration. It will be released as a 2xLP package.

Dawn of the Dead will also get a 2xLP release that will include brand new artwork, re-mastered audio, and more. The same kind of treatment is being given to The ‘Burbs. Christopher Young’s Drag Me to Hell soundtrack will be a single LP but will get the same level of attention and quality as the other titles.

As for Peele’s Get Out. Michael Abels; score will be released on a 2xLP vinyl set and will pay tribute to one of the most culturally significant movies of the past several years.

The Waxwork Records subscription package will be $250 ($285 in Canada) and will open up for sale this Friday, the 24th. More information can be found on Waxwork’s website.

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