Having a young kid as the protagonist of a horror film can either lead to a really crappy movie that barely shows any growth of the character (Insidious) or it can truly depict the emotional struggles of childhood (don’t judge – Sixth Sense).
Scott Schirmer’s Found. falls into the latter category and does so with as much pain and uncertainty that comes with growing up. By the end of the film, I sat in silence for a good hour as I attempted to rid myself of the uncomfortable empathy the movie brought about.
Found. is based off of the novel of the same name, written by Todd Rigney who co-wrote the film with Schirmer. Originally released in 2012, it made its rounds in the festival circuit and won a plethora of awards before XLrator Media picked it up this year for distribution in North America.
Fifth-grader Marty is a pretty decent kid: good grades, doesn’t start trouble, loves low budget horror movies and creating his own graphic novel. Of course, this means that the bigger kids in school and church pick on him, mocking him for (of all things) the size of his penis. Like most kids and adults alike, Marty finds escape in fictional worlds. When he discovers a severed head in his big brother’s closet, those horror movies he loves begin to take over his home life.
When I was in college, I received a Minor in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, so I am a fan of coming of age stories, which is exactly what Found. is. Up until the last twenty minutes or so, Schirmer and Rigney’s film feels similar to Mystic River: Kids trying to grow up and figure out their own lives while the world throws some real shitty situations at them. Newcomer Gavin Brown plays Marty with such innocence and curiosity that I found myself genuinely caring about what happens to him, which is saying a lot because I really don’t like kids. Odd, yes?
Marty’s older brother, Steve (an amazing Ethan Philbeck), unknowingly allows Marty to borrow one of his favorite horror films, Headless. It is within this VHS tape that he discovers Steve’s inspiration for killing. Headless also brings about unwanted images to the forefront of Marty’s imagination as he watches the killer rape decapitated heads, relish in the bloodbath of his kills, and ultimately get shot by the police.
Throughout the first hour or so, Found. plays out like so many other Bildungsroman stories: The audience follows Marty’s growth as he struggles with bullies and his otherwise useless parents. The film brings about a lot of social commentary, ranging from emotional and physical abuse, racism, homophobia, and a slew of other controversial topics; however, it does so in a way that doesn’t seem forced.
There is something nostalgic about the sleepovers and imaginations of the child actors. Which is why the hardships and abuse that Marty withstands makes it that much more difficult to endure.
After watching Marty’s struggles… well, the last twenty minutes will certainly stay with you for a while after the film ends. I won’t give too much away, but the culminating violence and imagery is one of the most unsettling scenes I have ever witnessed. My girlfriend happened to walk in during these scenes, saw the horrified look on my face, and wisely walked out of the room.
Overall, the performances are extremely well-done and the characters are fleshed out and believable. Some of the physical violence leaves a lot to be desired, but it comes with the territory of a micro-budget film (Found. was made with an $8,000 budget). What the film lacks in typical Hollywood jump scares, it more than makes up for in psychological trauma. It is the type of film that will haunt your every waking thought… and then brutally massacre your dreams.
Found. will be released August 15th in theaters, VOD, and iTunes, with a DVD release scheduled for September 23rd.
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FOUND Review – A Macabre Massacre Of Childhood