There sure is a lot of hate for a pretty good movie. Maybe I am just too forgiving. Of course, it has its flaws, but it also has some great scenes, things I had never seen before, and even it gave me a legitimate chill at one point. What more can you ask from a movie?
The biggest gripe seems to be with the found-footage format, and it is sometimes pretty goofy. Mostly it is being shot by husband Zach McCall, but there are also inserts from a police station camera, a supermarket security camera, rogue cameras installed by Satan worshipers, and the craziest — a trio of teenagers who also just happen to film everything. There is no pretense that this footage was ever actually found and edited into what we are watching. This is not found-footage, this is unfound-footage. You can bitch about the presentation, or you can roll with it. Ich bin ein roller.
In brief scenes of the wedding and the night before we meet Zach and the very cute Samantha McCall (Allison Miller). If there is anything important here, I missed it. We do briefly see a preacher — Bernard from Lost — who shows up later, and get the couple’s names, but otherwise, not much. Minutes later, they are winging it to the Dominican Republic for the honeymoon.
Sam has her palm read, and it goes about as well as it goes in every movie. The reader tells her she’s had hard times, but now is happy — oh, that’s sweet; that she has no family, no past — that’s, er, harsh but factual; and, oh yeah, she is born from death! This last bit is literally true as her pregnant mother was killed in a car crash, and Sam was cut out of her belly. The palm reader flips out, repeating, “They’ve been waiting”, prompting the McCalls to run from the shop.
They immediately become lost after dark in the Dominican Republic which is basis enough for a horror movie. They flag down a taxi and the driver offers to take them to a club for a drink. Despite flying out the next morning, being tired, lost, nervous about their surroundings and freaked out by the palm reader — sure, let’s have a drink! He takes them to a place is pretty sketchy, down dark corridors decorated in the Hostel / Saw motif. Shockingly, they actually do emerge from this filthy trek a) alive and b) into a swingin’ club.
We get footage of them drinking, dancing,having a good time there before the picture becomes choppy and we get just brief glimpses of them being carried out of the club. then a satanic ritual is performed on a flaming Quake II logo (because what other kind of ritual is there?). Nixonian gap in the tape / they are back in the hotel with no memory of how they got there. Seconds later they are back home in the US.
Either 5 minutes or 7 weeks later, Sam announces that she is pregnant. Not sure what this guy Zach does for a living, but at about 25 he’s got a McMansion, unlimited free time, a hot wife, and no financial worries about an unplanned child. Guy Woodhouse had to sell his soul for this kind of life.
After Sam’s first ultrasound, we start getting indications that all might not be well with her pregnancy. In a bit reminiscent of Paranormal Activity we get a night vision shot of Sam violently grabbing Zach’s wrist as she continues to sleep. Things get progressively weirder from here.
Part of the weirdness is in the POV. For the first time, except briefly in the film’s opening shot, we are viewing the action from a non-McCall POV. Now, we get several shots from security cameras of Sam shopping in the market before pausing in front of the meat case. She pauses, takes a package and begins eating the raw meat. Say, that is crazy — she’s is a vegetarian!
There is more weirdness, best left unspoiled.
Thank God, the cult installs hidden cameras in the McCall house to eliminate the need for Zach to be filming everything. Coincidentally, this happens at just the moment Zach stops filming everything. My favorite, and least practical, is the Arbogast-cam that mimics the POV when Martin Balsam gets stabbed n Psycho.
When Sam and Zach attend a communion service, ya just knows there is going to be a problem. Sure enough, Pastor Bernard starts sputtering, and bleeding from the nose onto his nice clean frock or tunic or vestment or whatever it is that they wear. He is staring at Sam, knowing that she is somehow responsible for this and will damn well pay the cleaning bill. There is a nice blink-and-you-miss-it moment as the camera pans past Sam’s profile and she is sporting some cool red devil eyes.
Later, Zach is reviewing tapes and spots the taxi driver from the Dominican Republic in the church during the pastor’s seizure. He was not detected as being a communion-crasher at the service, which is shocking because 1) he is not the sort of Dominican they are used to seeing in the pews, and 2) not the kind of Republican either, for that matter.
He also finally sees the few frames that show him and Sam being hauled out of the club, and the flaming Quake II satanic ritual.
Zach goes to see Pastor Bernard, and shows him the symbols that appeared on the tape. Whoops, it turns out they are not the logo for Quake II, but religious symbols heralding the return of the anti-Christs — plural. That seems a little unfair — it should be one anti per Christ. He tells Zach to get the hell out of his room.
Now we come to the scene that is worth the price of admission. We cut to 3 teenagers who also have a fetish for filming. What happens next is exhilarating. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Actually, probably best not to even document the rest. From this point on, the pace and chills really accelerate.
The last scene is another honeymooning American couple, this time in Paris. They are approached by the same taxi driver. Being another dopey camera-wielding couple, at this point, I feel they deserve whatever they get.
I rate it a 600 out of 666.
- From the directors of the “10/31/98” episode of V/H/S, which was also pretty good. Strangely, I don’t remember much about it except that it was good. Maybe it just seemed good right next to the God-awful wraparound.
- According to IMDb, there is an uncredited actor in this named Spencer Tracey. Why would you even attempt a movie career with that name? Can it possibly help you? Edward Norton had the good sense not to go by “Ed“. Might I suggest “Spence”, at the very least?
- Just discovered that on The Honeymooners, Ed Norton’s middle name was Lillywhite. Hate to think what it might have been in the 2005 version with Cedric the Entertainer.
- Why does the anti-Christ have to be American? Oh yeah — Hollywood.
- Pregnant women are smug.