Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 88 minutes
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Don and Mark Arnott’s found footage paranormal film, Severed Footage, opens with some text card tidbits about ghosts and evil spirits, before heading into information about a series of severed feet, still in their shoes, being found along the shores of British Columbia and Washington State from 2007 to 2011. We’re then informed that a group of college students went missing in 2007, but footage from a documentary they were filming was found and placed in police custody. Now someone has anonymously leaked said footage, and that’s what we are about to see.
Feels a little Blair Witch Project, right? Yeah, that feeling won’t go away. As the footage rolls, we are introduced to our documentary crew as they explain why they’re doing what they’re doing. The documentary is for a college history class, and Mat (Mathieu Lessard) has decided that, by doing this project, he may be able to convince some attractive coeds, Kimberly (Kimberly Blais) and Sabrina (Sabrina Duncan), to join the group. Mat succeeds in winning over the two women, and with friends Tony (Matt “Tony” Walker) and cameraman Mark (Mark Arnott), sets out to record a video about the history of Newcastle Island in British Columbia, reportedly one of the most haunted places around.
As they dig into the history of the island, and talk to the locals in the area, information about a mining disaster on the island that claimed numerous lives is revealed, and stories about the nefarious axe-murderer “Kanaka Pete,” who is also supposedly buried somewhere on the island, continuously pop up. With camera in tow, the group kayaks out to Newcastle Island for a night of camping and filming. As you can imagine, things do not go well for our eventually missing students.
Strange symbols are found, some of the group wander off without remembering how or why, there’s night-time tent-rattling and copious amounts of shaky cam of our group running through the woods. Again, if this makes you think of The Blair Witch Project, you would not be wrong. A moment involving some of our students found facing away with heads bowed makes you wonder if the film is respectfully paying homage to that indie classic’s ending, or just utilizing yet another piece for their own derivative tale.
Because this film does not smack of much originality in any direction. That’s not a massive slight if the film is done well enough, and there are certainly high points to be found in this one. For one, the students are young and mostly personable and entertaining. It’s not all that awful spending time with them in the lead up to the island visit. And once they get to the island, it’s not a typical horror film where folks drink, fuck and die.
Also, the film does have a quality scare or two. Some aspects like the tent shaking, yeah, we’ve seen that done before and it’s less than frightening, but the film employs some effective jump scares throughout. Of course, the film also makes it a point, during the credits, to re-run elements of the footage, in the off-chance you missed the clever clues they’d hidden throughout filming it. The result is disappointing, like someone trying to explain a joke to you, even though you already got it.
Pacing-wise, the film is very front-heavy. Nothing gets really out there until they get to the island, as you can imagine, and even then not much happens until nightfall, which is about an hour in. At that point, with less than thirty minutes to go in the film, you know all these elements and characters that were getting set up in the previous hour will be rushed through a climax of some sort, because all of them go missing.
Thus, the film feels out of balance; front-loaded and then rushed. Having said that, how much time can you spend showing people running around at night when it’s hard to see anything? Going back to The Blair Witch Project, however, that film knew to draw it out over a couple days so that you didn’t have to pack all your impact in one punch. The hysteria there grew gradually, and the end impact was better for it.
So where are we at with this one? Simply, Severed Footage is an extremely derivative film with a few memorable highlights. Even attempting to ground the film in a sense of reality outside the film (inviting people to research “Kanaka Pete” or the mystery severed feet themselves) hearkens back to the success of The Blair Witch Project around the time of its festival debut, when people thought the footage they were watching was actually real. Here, we never really make that connection, no matter how much the filmmakers might want us to do so. Mostly it comes down to the cast being awkwardly charming and mostly fun to be around, but not so entertaining as to carry them through a feature film. Likewise, while there’s a jump scare employed to great effect in spots, there’s never any suspense or mystery otherwise, because we’ve seen all these elements before and we know, from the opening, how it will end.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.
Posted on December 14, 2013 in Reviews by Mark Bell
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