Directed by Justin Cole
A few years ago the Dread Central offices caught the buzz about some kind of film that may or may not contain actual footage of a New York City socialite overdosing as well as the events leading up to and following the tragedy. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but little did I know that Upper was not going to fade away.
A number of months later I got an assignment… there is a rumor going around the internet that Quentin Tarantino is interested in buying the infamous Upper footage to turn it into a feature film. Check it out! Some investigative digging led to very little, and it appeared that this was another rumor started by… someone, somewhere… to get the buzz on Upper started.
Finally, it’s all come together. The Upper Footage has been released as a found footage film and is actually quite a creative concept. The movie begins by giving the back story: There is video footage of a girl overdosing with a pretty explosive fallout afterwards. The filmmakers then go on to describe the buzz started by the footage, even showing actual articles from the internet about the buzz caused by the film. (If you look closely, you can even see Dr. Gash’s Dread Central article from imdb.com on the Quentin Tarantino rumor featured in the film.) The setup for The Upper Footage is great! The whole thing really seems legit.
But then we get to the footage. There is a five-minute intro in The Upper Footage; then the rest of the movie is the “actual footage” retrieved from the individuals involved. And this is where we run into trouble. The vast majority of the movie is shot with a handheld camera, and it is often violently shaky and very hard to watch. Yes, this is supposed to add to the realism of this project that never comes out of character and sticks to the idea that this is real footage throughout the movie and the marketing campaign. But at the end of the day, you have to put out a quality movie that is enjoyable to watch in addition to an aggressive and creative marketing strategy, and this one didn’t do it.
The meat of The Upper Footage is indeed the “real” footage depicting a night of partying that results in the death of one of the group. Unfortunately, there is so little action that viewers will tend to lose interest before anything exciting happens, especially considering the entire thing is filmed with a very unsteady handheld camera. We get a limo ride where we meet all the characters, and for the most part they are all extremely unlikable prats. From here we move to the apartment of one of the members of the party and continue to see just how callous and unfeeling every member of this group is, aside from the one girl they’ve picked up, who just happens to be the one who overdoses.
We basically roll on for about an hour and 20 minutes of home movie quality video of the limo ride, the party, the overdose and the fallout afterwards. All of it is extremely roughly shot. And in the filmmakers’ defense, it’s understood that this movie is purposely shot in a rough fashion to add realism to it. But there has to be something to watch. Something with quality, characters we care about, things in focus. The Upper Footage was really short on all of that.
The marketing campaign on this movie was excellent. Hell, even going to their IMDb page, the only name you find listed as credited is director Justin Cole. None of the actors or actresses are named, which only makes the whole thing that much creepier, like… it is fake, right? To that end, The Upper Footage does a very good job in infusing doubt that, hey, maybe this is real. Like The Blair Witch Project, this movie is gritty, has a believable back story and a genius in the marketing department. Unfortunately, The Upper Footage just doesn’t generate the tension and dread that The Blair Witch Project did. It was on the right track, had the right idea, but fell short.
Kudos to the filmmakers for thinking outside the box on this one, as The Upper Footage is certainly not your everyday, run-of-the-mill movie. But as great as the promotion was, the actual movie is really lacking. Another found footage adventure that will leave you mostly unsatisfied.
1 1/2 out of 5