Found footage movies, why is this still a thing? We get it already. In whatever world these people live in, they just can’t seem to put a camera down. Sometimes they are so attached to their cameras it seems like there’s a gimbal stabilizing the image. With a small handful of exceptions the genre is laughable, so why do we keep on trying? It’s likely because those exceptions are excellent and highly entertaining movies. But is there anything that makes The Gracefield Incident different? Yes. Are those differences enough to make it an exception to the rule?
Matthew Donovan (writer and director, Mathieu Ratthe) and his wife Jessica suffer devastating losses in a horrific car crash. Among the casualties is one of Matthew’s eyes. Several months later, Matthew and Jessica gather up their closest friends and have a long weekend at a luxury cabin in Gracefield. To memorialize the weekend, Matthew has turned his prosthetic eye into a camera. Shortly into fun and merriment, a fireball falls from the sky, leaving the men to discover a meteorite, along with something scary and sinister in the woods. That is all I am going to tell you about the story. There are some very different things happening here and I am not going to rob you of any of them. The reveal really makes you go “Hmmm”.
Neat trick right? How does one take something that can be old about a genre and make it new again? How about putting the camera inside a person’s head? Well it works, and to tell the whole truth, they also kind of cheat while they are at it. Seems as though Matthew and Jonathan (Victor Andres Turgeon-Telles) love their camera toys and while Matt has one in his head, Jonathan is running around with a low-end professional unit with lighting and the works. So, yea…cheaters.
What does work about this is you get every “occurrence” from differing point of view. One viewpoint sees everything with a lot of blues and shadows, while the other seems more of everything, but less at the same time. These aren’t the only two cameras used to give the viewer a feeling of being in the story. The luxury cabin in the woods is owned by a paranoid Bigfoot hunter, so it’s wired up with security cameras. The “thing” in the woods seems to have an effect on electrical fields that causes cell cameras to activate and immediately switch to the video setting. It’s not really explained, I don’t think there are any good ways to explain it, but hey, it’s a movie right? Sometimes it just has to be movie reasons. I poke fun, but overall the footage used works to tell the story and create some legitimate tension and a few very good jump scares. Hats off to director Mathieu Ratthe for trying something new.
The cast of 6 is what you would want for this sort of movie. You have your redshirts who aren’t going to last very long, Juliet (Juliette Gosselin) and Trey (Alex C. Nachi). The actors did what they could to get you to like them, but these are your typical “let’s make bad decisions” kind of characters. Elizabeth (Laurence Dauphinais) and Jonathan (Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles) are your voice of reason. Sure they cannot help themselves but to go along with what’s going on, but the whole way there they are the ones saying, yelling, angrily whispering the sensible thing to do. Good news though, they get tired of it all and try to find their own way out.
Now for the Donovans, Jessica (Kimberly Laferriere) feels like she is in a different movie. She isn’t as concerned with what’s going on as she really needs to be. She needs to be absolutely confronted with what is happening in the woods before she becomes part of the solution. That could be her character though, see above mentioned car accident and devastating loss for the reason. Matthew Donovan was a tough nut to crack for this one. He is Captain Bad Choice through most of the movie. It’s possible that he keeps making these decisions due to previous stresses – see loss and car accident again – but I had trouble buying it. Some of the decisions were so poor and erratic it’s almost hard to believe that this sort of person would make them. Ratthe may have served his story better by staying behind the camera and letting someone else lead his movie.
The Gracefield Incident is a sign that there are still places for the found footage genre to go. The story is a pleasant surprise, and the cast does a mostly fantastic job at playing the archetypes we normally find in a horror movie. The jump scares really land and director Mathieu Ratthe plays them very close to the vest. So, is this an excellent example of the genre? No, but it is a good example. Nearly everything works in this, with the exception of some acting bobbles. Quiet night at home and need an OnDemand movie experience? This is the right film for you.
Starring Mathieu Ratthe, Laurence Dauphinais, Juliette Gosselin, Lori Graham
Written by Mathieu Ratthe
Directed by Mathieu Ratthe