Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass
Starring: Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass
This film is one that I sought out, because I started doing year end lists for horror. I was late to the game, but the sequel was out so I figured I’d watch these back to back. I knew the buzz, so that was about it for that first viewing. I am now giving it a rewatch as part of the Summer Challenge Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. Our synopsis is a young videographer answers an online ad for a one-day job in a remote town to record the last messages of a dying man. When he notices the man’s odd behavior, he starts to question his intentions.
Much like the synopsis states, we start with the videographer Aaron (Patrick Brice) as he heads to the cabin to meet with his subject. He is a little leery about it, but none the less goes up to the door. He knocks, but no one answers at first. He looks over the railing and sees an ax. Having gotten no answer, he goes back down to his car to call the number he has for contact. Someone then scares him by knocking on the window. It is Josef (Mark Duplass), the man who hired here. He convinces Aaron to come up to the house.
There we learn what the job is supposed to be. Josef states he has cancer and his wife is pregnant. He wants to do like Michael Keaton did in My Life and record a diary to give to his unborn child. Josef just got back from a run, making sense why he didn’t answer the door and he is going to get cleaned up. He has Aaron join him while he gets in the bath, one of the first weird things as Aaron films him in the tub. He acts how he would if he was going to bath his new child.
Josef then wants to go on a hike to show Aaron something. There is an awkward scene of Aaron checking in a closet for a heavier jacket to find a wolf’s head mask. It spooks him. Josef tells him a story about the mask involving his father and why he shouldn’t be scared.
They go for the hike where there is an odd rock formation that is shaped like a heart. Josef scares Aaron a couple of times while being on this excursion. There is a moment as well where Josef writes their initials and puts a heart around it. He asks if he is hungry and they go to a local diner that is supposed to have great pancakes. Once there, it seems like Josef has never been this to place before.
It is dark when they get back to the house and Josef convinces Aaron to come in for a whiskey. Aaron reluctantly agrees. Josef becomes quite a bit different, not wanting this other man to leave. Aaron actually drugs his drink and answers Josef’s phone. He learns that this guy isn’t exactly who he seems to be. Also he can’t find his car keys. This is just the beginning of the nightmare for Aaron.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie as that gets you up to speed. What works here for me is the believability of this found footage film, as that is what it is. Aaron answers an ad and it seems easy enough. Josef seems off, but that could just be he is socially awkward. It is sweet and sad with the reason for hiring Aaron. It becomes a nightmare though when he keeps pressuring Aaron to stay. In reality, it still isn’t, but we see little things that are cracks in Josef’s story that change things.
The character of Josef is where I want to delve a bit more and flesh out some of the things stated there. Like I’ve said, the reason to hire Aaron makes sense. He comes off at first like a weird guy. He keeps scaring him with different things. Part of this is that Aaron is on edge due to how things start off. It all makes sense for the reality. It is when he cracks the initials and shows him to this heart shaped rock it gets awkward. We then have things like Josef stating the diner they are going to have great pancakes, but when they’re there, he doesn’t seem to know the menu. Whenever get something like this, there is a logical explanation that disarms Aaron. It gets darker though when Josef tells a story about wearing the Peachfuzz mask and what he does with his wife to save their marriage. Josef is unreliable so we don’t know what the truth is and what is a lie.
This movie though wouldn’t work without good acting. I think both performances here are on point. Aaron is our rational person. He is us. Being that this is a horror movie, we are seeing it and thinking why would you do these things? In reality, he doesn’t know he is a horror movie. I’ve been pressured into things I don’t want to do, because I see similarities between myself and Aaron. Brice does well in conveying that. The best performance though is Duplass. He plays this role of Josef so well. I feel bad for him at first and then more you get to know; the more uneasy he makes you. It is great to see where the character ends up.
Then the last thing to go into would be the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. For the former, this is found footage and it works. It makes me feel like I’m right there with them. I do think there are times that some things are filmed that don’t make sense. I can be forgiving here though as Aaron is a videographer and I wouldn’t be surprised if they film some of this stuff by nature. There isn’t a lot in the way of effects, but this is a psychological film. What we get looks good. I also wanted to commend the soundtrack as this is the sounds you would hear in the world. It adds to the sense of realism.
So then in conclusion here, this is a solid film overall to me. I like that we have these two characters that feel real. We get to see someone like Josef who presents as one person, but the more we get to see; the more we realize it is a façade. I think that the acting brings them to life. The cinematography, effects and soundtrack all add to the sense of realism as well. For me, this is an above average movie and one that works on just an interesting level.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10