This film makes use of the soon to be over-used format of found footage. It is, however, among the few films which use it well. Through a mixture of faux documentary and security camera footage and old home movies and TV news reports, the film makers are able to give a wider scope to what they are able to show. It’s sad to say, though, that what starts out as a really interesting character study of an Alzheimer’s patient and the people around who are affected drags into the usually clichés of the genre.
This film was very frightening, but not for the jump cuts and sudden shocks of Deborah’s demonic face. The first half showing Deborah slipping into the hands of an insidious disease are truly disturbing. It’s not so much I mind the turn the film takes into the more traditional fare of the genre. In fact it’s an interesting twist to the story initially being presented. It the twist, however, that takes us away from the reality of the found footage style into the clichés inherent to that format, shaky camerawork being the biggest culprit. I mean these are professionals making a documentary, but suddenly they can’t walk without the camera shaking all over the place whenever something creepy is happening? And in the more intense moments it’s easy to forget that they only have one camera, so the multiple angels shown are not supposed to be noticed, but for me it breaks all the rules of suspension of disbelief and pulls me right out of a riveting narrative all due to a style choice of shooting.
Make no mistake, this is a character-driven narrative. We come to care for Deborah from the moment we’re introduced to her. We care about her daughter struggling to balance her mother’s dignity with her safety. We care about Mia, the struggle female film maker and her male assistants who do very little more than complain about everything. Of course some of their complaining adds a much need lightness to the film overall. One of the funniest moments comes at one of the most intense scenes where they are going up into the attic because they think there is a body there. They pull down the attic ladder and both females turn to the guy holding the camera and say, “You go first.” And he replies, “Oh, F*ck, No!” But of course he’s the first one heading up and as he goes up he says to himself, “White people, with their basements and attics!” It’s laugh out loud funny.
So as for found footage films, this one succeeds on many levels, far above many of the more recent attempts to cash in on the success of Paranormal Activity. But as a character-driven narrative…it sadly slips away from the characters we have come to care about in order to shock us with some clichéd visuals. I will say the ending in the cave has a visual that’s quite as disturbing and stunning as the end of The Blair Witch Project! So enjoy!