‘It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This’ Review: Understated Found Footage Horror Blurs the Line Between Reality and Fiction

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Blending over 20 years of archival footage from their lives with scenes shot for the movie, filmmakers Rachel Kempf and Nick Toti’s supernatural found footage film, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, is a uniquely disturbing experience. The line between reality and fiction blurs until we can’t be sure what’s real and what isn’t, making for an increasingly uncomfortable descent into the weird guaranteed to have you leaving the theater chilled.

Aspiring filmmakers and genre aficionados, Kempf and Toti bought an abandoned house in Kirksville, Missouri, during the wake of COVID with the intent of filming a horror movie there. Inspired by the sheer mess of the place, they began crafting a sort of alternate dimension story about themselves (and their friend Christian) in which they encounter a supernatural presence lurking within the house. Their attempt to uncover the mystery of the decrepit home leads them down a dark path in which boundaries are pushed and friendships are tested, all the while leaving us, the audience, to wonder how much of this really happened, and how much comes from the filmmakers’ own twisted imaginations.  

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Because so much of the film is the main cast being their quirky, horror-movie-obsessed selves, there’s a certain level of believability to It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This rarely seen since the days of The Blair Witch Project, back when it was easier to convince audiences that the found footage they were viewing was real (and yes, people did, in fact, think Blair Witch really happened). We witness intimate moments from the trio’s past caught on tape. We watch them giggle over all of the strange things they find in the house. We’re even treated to clips from various horror shorts they’ve made. All of it blends so seamlessly with fictional footage, that once sinister elements are introduced, separating fact from fiction becomes an unenviable task, to such an extent that the filmmakers’ own friends have attested that they (mostly) couldn’t tell what was fake and what wasn’t.

Adding to the believability of the film is the duo’s preference for understated dread over outright terror. It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This takes its time with the horror, rarely indulging in anything overtly supernatural to maintain the authentic nature of the film. Kempf and Toti resist the temptation to have doors slamming shut on their own or spirits soaring at the camera. Instead, they approach this tale with a sense of dread built upon mundane oddities. A few pentagrams drawn on the walls. A small altar in the attic. The occasional stranger staring at the house from outside. Nothing so horrific that it threatens to crack the foundation of realism that the filmmakers are careful to craft, but eerie enough that it sucks the viewer in, waiting for the perfect time to strike.

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Even a scene in which the characters perform a séance is done in complete silence, a far cry from your usual ghost whisperer demanding that the spirits show them a sign. What Kempf and Toti do here is put on a masterclass of subtle horror, pulling as far away from the extreme as possible so that when the characters start to exhibit some not-so-pleasant behavior, you’re left to wonder if it’s all part of the act or something that actually happened…and that makes It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This truly unsettling.

Some viewers will likely scoff at Rachel and Nick’s carelessness in constantly rushing towards or even laughing in the face of danger—and there are certainly moments that threaten to crack the above-mentioned foundation of realism. But I’d argue that their cavalier attitude contributes to how It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This so effectively disarms the audience. These are people who embody the horror movie guy who says they should split up or who dare to say Candyman five times in front of the mirror, making one poor decision after another. Yet they’re having so much fun doing it that many horror fans will probably see themselves on screen. I, too, might get a kick out of the creepiness of finding an altar in my attic. I might also find it weird yet kind of amusing that people keep staring at my house.

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Rachel and Nick are, for better and worse, you and I, that person who likes being scared, who laughs out of pure joy while walking through a haunted house. It doesn’t get any better than that, indeed. And yet, this is a film about learning to recognize when a fun fright isn’t so fun anymore, and when boundaries are pushed too far. It’s our loved ones that make life worthwhile, while the thrill of danger is short-lived.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This is about as real as it gets when it comes to found footage horror…aside from a few obvious and quite frightening moments, one of which will be poking at my mind with a haunting claw for weeks. A slow burn emphasizing understated terror, some shaky exposition, and under-developed conflict between the characters results in a film that doesn’t all work, but for those willing to give it a shot, Toti and Kempf more than reward patience. With this unsettling feature debut, the filmmakers prove they not only have an impeccable understanding of the genre, but recognize that it’s the mundane things that are sometimes scariest of all. I, for one, can’t wait to see how they shock us next.



With this unsettling feature debut, the filmmakers prove they not only have an impeccable understanding of the genre, but recognize that it’s the mundane things that are sometimes scariest of all.



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