Wednesday, 9 December 2015



Well, it's now fifteen years since The Blair Witch Project pretty much invented the found footage subgenre as we know it today, and since then we've had scores, maybe hundreds, of first-person horror movies. Even big name directors have had a go: George Romero (Diary Of The Dead), Barry Levinson (The Bay), Renny Harlin (The Dyatlov Pass Incident), but none of them have managed to make the naturalistic, verite style remotely believable or convincing that what we are watching is genuine. We saw through the tropes years ago: the introductory captions thanking the families of the missing and deceased for their permission to release this material into the public domain, the on-camera interviews and the shaky camerawork that looks exactly like your own home videos. It's a lame gag and it just doesn't work any more.

Hunting The Legend goes right back to the Blair Witch template as a trio of simpletons wander off into the woods looking for proof of a local urban legend (in this instance, Bigfoot) and filming absolutely everything, no matter how banal or incompetent. They interview various locals about their past sightings and encounters with the creature, before heading off into the bleak, dead woodlands looking for evidence. Leader Chris maintains the creature killed his dad five years previously, his girlfriend Hannah and best friend Jeff tag along, and a two man camera and sound crew follow to document their findings. First stop is to buy guns from a guy who's perfectly happy to show his garden bunker full of weaponry on camera so long as he isn't named....

The leads are bellowing halfwits trekking through a wilderness with nothing but Chris' vague memories of a sketched map to go on, constantly arguing and bickering to the extent that I joined Team Sasquatch about twenty minutes in. They blatantly contradict themselves: first they have to be quiet and then they all start calling out for the missing Jeff; they shouldn't have a fire because it attracts the creatures, but then they merrily start all-night campfires without a second thought. And when even the camera crew get fed up with this nonsense, Chris agrees it's going to be the last day of the trip, but they're still going further into the woods so that's surely going to mean an extra day just to get back.

The scene in the arms bunker, more even than the endless POV sequences of running around the woods in blind panic, actually triggered off a motion sickness attack which I could only conquer by staring fixedly to one side of the screen and watching it in my peripheral vision. Why were those scenes apparently allowed to run in their unnecessary entirety when other scenes such as the interviewed townsfolk were obviously heavily edited? Having said that: in defence of the found footage style, it wouldn't have made that much difference if it had been shot like a real movie. You'd just have ended up with an incompetent video nasty like Don't Go In The Woods or Night Of The Demon.

Hunting The Legend isn't doing anything Blair Witch didn't do back in 1999, but it's doing it even less well and less convincingly, without ever being scary or creepy. Can we stop this tiresome faux-reality silliness now and get back to actually making films? It might not be actively better, but it won't be so painful to watch.


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