In recent years the ‘found footage’ genre has attempted to re-invigorate itself by venturing into the realms of social media and 2010’s communication. Captures from a computer screen or Skype session (Unfriended, Searching), webcam chats (The Den) and footage for a YouTube Channel (Afflicted) have all contributed to a refreshed anxiety that puts fear in our very homes, not just on an old camcorder discovered off the beaten track of some creepy woods. Jérôme Cohen-Olivar’s Little Horror Movie is the latest found footage offering to tackle the generation with an incessant need for ‘likes’ and subscribers.
Helen, Einar and Mark make up the YouTube channel ‘Permanent Residents’, a team of keen explorers they make it their aim to show off the unknown side of far-off countries by actually living in the places as locals. On their next trip, they’re heading to Morocco, to the iconic city of Casablanca in an attempts to uncover the darker side of the city. Noticing that their channel views have dropped over the last few episodes, Permanent Residents realise that their audience interest peaks when they put themselves in dangerous situations, one of their most famous episodes being one where they were kidnapped in Guatemala.
The group quickly start exploring their surroundings and when out for dinner Helen meets a mysterious man who invites the group to a traditional Moroccan wedding. Jumping at the chance to involve herself in the culture, Helen accepts. Upon filming the ceremony, it appears that this is not a wedding at all, Helen and an unknown woman writhe and dance surrounded by hooded figures in an occult-like ritual.
From here on out Helen begins to show signs of possession by that of the Jinn, a notorious Arabian demon. Helen dons the trademark The Exorcist demon voice that’s full of expletives that would only ever be written by a male director, crawls up walls and spends a lot of time covered in blood. The audience could almost feel sorry for Helen if she wasn’t so boring in the first place. Which is more than can be said for Mark, easily one of the most irritating characters ever seen in a horror film; full of plenty of derogatory jokes about women and constantly biting back. Einar however is a redeeming quality of the group, full of passion and an actual willingness to help, he leads the investigation into what happened to Helen, as things grow increasingly more sinister around their rented accommodation.
Little Horror Movie starts out with a promising premise with its exploration of a non-westernised possession narrative but quickly falls into the trap of becoming too self-aware. Einar and Mark frequently reference the idea of the found footage movie to the point of irritation in a desperate attempt to be meta but never actually attempting to defy the expectations of the genre. By the end of its run time the actual YouTube channel seems like an afterthought.
Within the final act Cohen-Olivar takes quite a different turn, leading us down an incredibly gothic and atmospheric path with a chilling final scene that sadly is disconnected visually and emotionally from the rest of the film. It is in these few final scenes that Cohen-Olivar eradicates the tropes enlisted from the start and heads towards something fresh and poignant.
With little originality for the genre, Little Horror Movie never quite seems to grasp the social media aspect it aimed for from the start, instead favouring poor character writing and uninspired camera use. Strong Moroccan cultural elements and folklore that were successfully played upon are unfortunately swamped by lead characters that are impossible to connect with.
Little Horror Movie is making its World Premiere at NOLA Horror Film Festival on 22nd September.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here