Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Upper Footage - Blair Witch Lite Or...?

The film:
The Upper Footage (2013)

The under-the-radar factor:
Film is currently in release on the Vimeo VOD service

The review:

I didn't like the Blair Witch Project. I admired the marketing savvy but, as pointed out by many, it was less a film and more a stunt. Perhaps what I liked even less is how its phenomenal investment-to-return ratio inspired a slew of "found footage" doc/mockumentaries to bombard the screens, with a wide range of quality (or lack of) on full display. (Personally I thought Cloverfield was one of the better of these time-wasters...sillier can be better in this genre.)

The Upper Footage
A fairly recent entrant to the concept comes by way of the production known as The Upper Footage, a film "presented" by some mystery man named Justin Cole (is that his professional wrestling manager handle?) that was preceded by a degree of controversy regarding any cinema verite realism it may have contained. There was some hoopla regarding what was really being posted (or threatened to be posted) online, with even Quentin Tarantino's name being dragged into the mix. We'll cut to the chase here and tell one and all that this "found footage" offering is definitely as authentic as Justin Bieber performing in an opera. I also say up front that in spite of my fears that the viral marketing campaign may have been of more interest than the movie itself, The Upper Footage (mostly) works, from both an entertainment perspective and by way of some social commentary.

The film follows a group of well-heeled, privileged knucklehead young adults who have nothing better to do but be complete goof balls. They party-hardy, look to score, drive around in a stretch limo and down as much booze in the gullet and blow up the nose as they can. Eventually they pick up a "socialite" (her face always pixelated) to take back to one of their apartments to get her wasted on coke to the point of stripping (the next step in her actions beyond that are not shown out of "respect for her family") and being left in the bathroom to vomit herself into an early death. The rest of this charmer concerns the group of brats coming up with the plan for disposing of the victim's body without themselves being caught. Trailer, please...(but you may want to cover your ears or wash out the mouths of the actors...)

So we know we're going to be experiencing the high-jinks of the early evening, the picking up of the young lady, her death and the subsequent attempt at a cover-up - all being recorded by the guy in the group with the video camera. When I understood this to be the case - and knowing the production values to be expected and forgiven in this sub-genre - I ended up deducing what would be the two most important questions to be answered about this film:

1) Is the level of acting from the young cast believable enough? And...

2) ...does the suspension of disbelief hold when the decision is made by the characters to continue recording the night's events after the tragedy occurs?

In regards to the cast, I can say without doubt that they are the strong suit of the production. From their saucy spoiled endeavors in the first half of the film to the melting down after the fear of going to prison sets in, the young thespians employed here pull off a stellar job with nary a false note being struck, regardless of how incredulously the audience reaction to the actual story may be. Whether in party mode or panic, the range the group displays is an impressive one.

On the believably aspect, things don't hold as strongly. In the first half of the film, prior to the fifth wheel's death, the static images of nothing in particular, shaky shots in the limo, and mugging for the camera come across as plausible. Once the death occurs, a reason is given as to why the video recording should continue. You either buy into the explanation or you don't. I didn't. And as the story continues and a rethink occurs by some members of the group, the fact that images would continue to be captured becomes even less convincing. So, yes...suspension of disbelief takes a major hit just as the storyline intensifies.

In spite of this rather serious flaw, I still find myself admiring the talent of the cast and the determination of the people behind the production enough to recommend this effort. The jabs at the poor-rich kids of the 1% world also makes for scoring relevant points, as it's clear the snot-noses are entertained by the spiral of a member of the "lower classes" in their presence.  I can also say that, from start to finish, The Upper Footage held more interest value for me than many other similar offerings...Blair Witch included. Far from perfect but not to be dismissed, The Upper Footage manages to be just worthy enough an indie to spend some time with.


  1. As someone who enjoys a found footage horror movie now and again, this one definitely sparked my interest after I saw the trailer some time back. It's good to hear that the performances are strong as that can often bring these sorts of films down, and particularly given the subject matter, I think it's even more important here. But it does sound extremely dark and downbeat, perhaps too bleak for my liking. I like the supernatural efforts where there's a bit of fun to be had in the crazy goings-on. That said, I'll probably check this out when I get the chance. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. As I mentioned, the film has some warts but I still give it an overall recommendation. But it isn't "fun" as some of those other efforts.