"one of the most fascinating films I’ve seen in a long while. The film has believable characters, aided by the excellent performances"
The genre of found footage has been increasingly popular in recent years, thanks in part to the immensely successful 2007 hit Paranormal Activity, with its numerous sequels and imitators coming to dominate the horror film calendar. However, the genre has now become highly repetitive with little originality or worthwhile value. The subject of today’s review Starvecrow, billed as the first ‘selfie’ film, finally presents a dark, fresh take on this sub-genre, with interesting results.
The plot is difficult to describe given the film’s style, however a possible synopsis would be along these lines: Ben, an obsessive individual who films all of his daily actions and interactions to keep a record, reconnects with Jess, a figure from his past, who is also the object of his obsession. Intercut with Ben’s story are excerpts following a group of seemingly innocent friends, who are hiding dark secrets amongst themselves and are revealed as being far from innocent.
The acting is exemplary; with much of the dialogue improvised and the characters feeling like real people you would meet in a bar. This effect is aided by the mixture of dramatic material concerning the plot, and footage shot by the actors as they go about their normal lives, drinking and partying; basically what you would find on someone’s Facebook or Youtube account.
It's much touted filming style dubbed ‘hyper-real’ by its makers can be viewed as a modern day equivalent to the Dogme 95 movement of the 1990s and 2000s, a much more bare bones style of filmmaking that aims to make the viewer feel like a participant to the action.
In this regard the film succeeds, with the scenes around socialsing that feel natural and believable, like we are in attendance. Its darker moments are made all the more uncomfortable thanks to the filming style, with scenes of murder, stalking and rape that appear much more visceral, like we are being invited along to these horrible acts, but are powerless to stop them.
Starvecrow is not without its flaws, despite its excellent performances and innovative presentation. The plot, for example, is extremely difficult to follow, mainly because of the style, jumping back and forth between footage shot by Ben and the footage shot by the group of friends, which left me struggling to figure out how the two stories connected, apart from thematically. These problems do cost the film, yet it could merely be a deliberate attempt by the filmmakers to present a story in a fractured manner akin to the mentally fractured state of Ben.
Starvecrow is one of the most fascinating films I’ve seen in a long while. The film has believable characters, aided by the excellent performances, allow it to feel like a genuine assembly of social media posts made by the kind of people that you yourself may know. However, its rather jumbled up presentation is both a blessing and a curse, with the dark plot of obsession and murder certainly interesting enough to keep us watching, with more than a handful of uncomfortable twists adding an extra layer to proceedings. But be warned that the plot is increasingly difficult to follow due to this approach, and could prove off-putting to newcomers.