The Upper Footage (2014) - A Review

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  1. Hatchetwarrior

    Hatchetwarrior Well-Known Member

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    UPPER Footage (2014)
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    Plot: Following the aftermath of an extortionist’s failed blackmail attempt, a media fire storm is put in motion when footage of a young girl's death, and the ensuing cover-up by a group of young New York socialites, is leaked to the public.

    The Found Footage subgenre of horror is a very love it or hate kind of thing. I happen to be one of those people who, for the most part, loves found footage films. What was originally a very niche corner of the horror universe, dating all the way back to Cannibal Holocaust in the early 1980’s, has since exploded into a money maker for Hollywood with the release of the original Paranormal Activity back in 2009. In a mere five years, Found Footage has gone from just a pocket full of films to an endless slew of ripoffs, wannabes, and future classics that will be talked about forever. But, like I’m sure most of you know, a good found footage horror film is hard to come by. Even as much as I enjoy watching them, there are only about a dozen films that I can whole heartedly recommend to anyone. And now that the market place is saturated with shaky cam horror, the likely hood of finding something that is worth my time has become miniscule. Then here comes Justin Cole’s “The UPPER Footage.”

    The history behind the film is quite the long one, dating all the way back to 2010, when Cole released several short clips on Youtube of a young girl (her face pixilated) overdosing on drugs while a group of people berate and catcall at her. Claiming the footage was real, Youtube quickly pulled the videos for breaking their terms and conditions. More videos surfaced in 2011 with a group of young socialites (again, the faces pixilated) doing cocaine. Rumors quickly ran through Hollywood, pointing fingers at who these young people could be, which included Disney stars like Demi Lovato. Not long after the release of this new footage did speculation of Quentin Tarantino acquiring it with the possibility of releasing it under the title UPPER. These rumors later turned out to be false and things went quite until 2013, when the film was scheduled to debut at NYC’s Tribeca Film Festival. According to the film, the premiere never took place because of “protests” because of the nature of film’s content. After more than a three year wait, the “UPPER Footage” is currently streaming on Vimeo On Demand (as of the posting of this review) for the world to see.

    The first twenty minutes are pretty mundane. It just sets up who the characters are and what their personalities are like. The group consists of Will, the camera man, his buddy Blake, Blake’s girlfriend Taylor, and, later on, Devon and a young girl named Jackie. These kids are over privileged, party hardy, Park Avenue socialites with few interests and little redeemable qualities. Typically this is a crash course in terrible cinema if you have seen more than one horror film, but this is handled in just the right way. These characters are not meant to be likeable, because these are the type of people, I am assuming, most of us would not want to be in the same room as, let alone associate with. In those first few minutes we learn to hate them. They love drugs, they love gossip, they love material possessions, and they look down their noses at minorities, homosexuals, and people who in general don’t meet their superficial standards of beauty or social standings. (as a side note, I can’t see a major studio picking this film up just based on the amount of racial and homophobic slurs uttered in the first few minutes alone). We don’t learn too much about Jackie, but she is a young, naïve, and shy girl who is clearly trying to fit in with these spoiled brats. Things turn for the worse when the crew heads back to Blake’s top floor apartment to keep partying by snorting large amounts of coke, which leads to Jackie’s overdose and death in Blake’s Bathroom.

    Without giving away too much, the “UPPER Footage” takes a very minimalist approach to its story and presentation, and I mean that in the most positive way imaginable. The biggest problem I have with the found footage genre, both from Hollywood and the independents, is the lack of authenticity. As far as I am concerned the found footage genre hit its zenith with Blair Witch Project fifteen years earlier. The film is shot, acted, and edited so well that you are completely convinced what you are seeing is real. The tension is palpable, the drama among the cast is both upsetting and realistic, and the threat of danger through out the entire venture in the woods is incredibly disturbing. This is what so many found footage films of recent memory fail to do. The actors in these films are doing just that, they are acting. I am never convinced what I am seeing and hear is a naturally everyday conversation, it is just actors reading dialogue. Way too often is the camera conveniently capturing the shocking, outrageous, supernatural moments perfectly in frame. Too often am I asking myself, “Way the fuck are they recording this? Just put that camera down and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.” It is these three things that cheapens the quality of the subgenre, turning it into a mocking. Thankfully, UPPER Footage does none of those things. This film works because it feels like real recorded footage of a fun night gone horribly wrong. The dialogue feels natural and the actors come across as real people. What adds to the realism is how it is shot and recorded. Some of the dialogue is semi-inaudible, the camera is occasionally out of focus or recording out of frame, the lighting is not perfect and, crazy enough, there is an entire ten minute sequence that is recorded with the camera in Will’s lap as chaos ensues. Justin Cole completely nails authenticity on the head every step of the way.

    The most refreshing part about this little flick, as you could imagine, is how unique the premise is. No vampires, or zombies, or supernatural elements of any kind. This is just a film about a group of people trying to figure out how to get out of a very fucked up situation, and it is handled beautifully. Once Jackie is dead, things just spiral completely out of control and what unfolds is unsettling and disturbing, because shit like this could happen to anyone. Justin Cole really raises some interesting questions about how self absorbed, spoiled, and desensitized this current generation of kids present themselves, and how money and power can help you literally get away with murder.

    I really hope this movie becomes the new ground work for future found footage films because this is everything I want them to be: realistic, unapologetic, and disturbing. Much like the Blair Witch Project, you really need a lot of patience to sit through it, but I promise it is totally worth your while.

    Rating: 9/10

    Promo Trailer

    Teaser Trailer
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2014

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