America’s Deadliest Home Video is arguably the first modern found footage horror. But is it great?
Pedants may quibble; Cannibal Holocaust is really the first of its type, they may say. However, America’s Deadliest Home Video uses the conceit the whole way through. Props for that. And no Gravol required.
And as director Jack Perez notes in the extras (and take note here all you found footage filmmakers): much of this film was carefully mapped out. There were long, involved takes…basically, a lot of actual film-making going on. You don’t expect a filmmaker waxing poetic about Hitch’s work in Rope, when you figure this thing cost under $10,000 to make, but that flick partly inspired ADHV.
America’s Deadliest Home Video isn’t some lunatic auteur putting together a video scrapbook for his crawlspace nor some middle class homeowner trying to capture ghosts on film as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in many a found footage snooze-fest.
Here, it’s filmmaker Dougie (played by Partridge Family kid-bassist Danny Bonaduce) who’s kidnapped by a tripartite gang of trigger happy convenience store bandits, the so-called Clint Dryer Gang. They want him to record for posterity the crime wave they’re perpetrating across the cheese state of Wisconsin.
Everyone wants to be a filmmaker. (Really Awful Movies writers are guilty of this as well.) Here, the bandits frequently try their hand at getting their artistic ya ya’s out by getting behind the camera and asking Dougie for tips.
Ponytailed Clint is a sadist recently out of the joint and barely able to control his charges. Mollena Williams is amazing as dreadlocked sharpshooter Vezna, always pressing Clint for missions much more perilous than their small town capers. Melora Walters is engaging as Clint’s on-again, off-again love interest, who takes an interest in their ginger prisoner. And nebbish Dougie is not as geeky as he seems. We follow the threesome as they rob boaters, gas stations, video stores and even as they enjoy some downtime with some bowling and weed R&R with their captive.
Cheap as it is, this one has an unexpected Natural Born Killers vibe to it.
The denouement is a little iffy and awkward, but all and all, there’s no way in hell this should be as good as it is.
*** (out of 5)