Despite the never-ending argument that the POV film, “found-footage” as it were, is playing out as a format, it still keeps defiantly chooglin’ on. Personally, I don’t hate the technique — in fact, when it’s done well, I’m often an ardent supporter — but I’m always wary. It’s probably the easiest way to make a horror movie, and talented filmmakers low on budget but big on ideas are constantly coming up with ways to make it work. Unfortunately, that same ease makes a lot of lesser-talented (and occasionally, completely untalented) people think they can jump on the gravy train and punch out a half-assed horror flick with a cheap camera and crap idea. With modern indie found-footage, it’s pretty much a crapshoot.
Lilin’s Brood is one of the more recent found-footage films to come across my desk — with that fervent hope of a fan but the apprehensive concern of a jaded critic, I went into the Mansa Mojo Brothas (P.W. Simon & Artii Smith) production with guarded anticipation.
Working for an investigative media group called W.H.I.S.T.L.E. (We Hear In Silence The Lies Everywhere), Vanessa and Wolf are concluding some interviews about a string of seemingly unrelated missing persons. During this last one, a piece of evidence is presented to them that provides a link between all the different victims, thanks to the efforts of Thomas, their technical/research specialist. It seems that each of the missing people (all men) had some kind of connection to a chain of brothels, and further digging seems to link these brothels to the illegal organ trade. Getting the greenlight from their superiors, the team makes plans to infiltrate one of these brothels, setting up cameras and gathering information.
Getting there isn’t as easy as they planned, however, as their GPS constantly cuts in and out. Roaming the backroads trying to get their bearings, they strike something on the dark road and, getting out to investigate, meet a hitchhiker who agrees to take them to a phone in exchange for a ride (because, of course, if the GPS isn’t working, the cell phones aren’t either). Thomas and the assistant camera specialist, Art, go with the strange man while Wolf, Vanessa, and camera pro Danny await with the driver. After they’re gone for an excessive amount of time, all but the driver set out to find their missing friends — to their surprise and delight, the location with the phone turns out to be none other than the brothel they were seeking, and head-of-household Madame Plu goes to great lengths to make them comfortable while they await roadside assistance…but there’s more going on than meets the eye here. The team sets up their cameras, but find themselves entranced with the atmosphere and goings-on in the house of ill-repute, and all are inexorably drawn into a web of darkness and deceit that will not end well…at least not for the males of the party…
The first thing I’ll give to this film is the originality — from the outset, I have to say I was expecting something different from what I got here. I won’t spoil it, but what is going on behind the scenes is an evil as old as the Bible itself, and the I found the concept intriguing. The media crew angle is a great way to explain the cameras rolling all the time, and with the exception of a few awkward lines and odd deliveries, the dialogue interaction and performances are largely organic and solid. While there aren’t a lot of FX shots, the ones that we see are very well-done for such a low budget work. If I had a technical complaint, it would be the editing — some scenes linger a goodly bit longer than they should, and a couple seem altogether disposable.
Despite these high points, however, I found that some of the situations were a bit too unbelievable; I mean sure, it’s a horror flick, but for so much attention to have been paid to the ingenious concept, I was kinda pushed out by some elements that just didn’t make sense. Without spoiling too much, I can say that when the RV the team travels in hits whatever it is that they hit, the van lurches like a photon torpedo hit on the the old Star Trek series — yet there’s only a little blood spatter on the fender.
The headlight wasn’t even broken! Another example: the strange attitudes of the first pair that reach the brothel aren’t really even questioned by the second group when they arrive, despite the long wait and odd behavior — it just comes across as a little contrived.
Overall though, I thought it was a pretty good entry into the genre, showing some refreshing originality in it’s concept and decent acting and camera work all around, especially amongst what I typically expect from a lower budget found footage film.
It has it’s problems, sure — but don’t they all?
My two cents tonight.
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