Wolf House

Homo homini lupus est.* Why, oh why, do filmmakers have to subject us to herky-jerky terrible found footage movies like Wolf House? Well for starters, they’re cheap as heck to produce. And storyboarding them isn’t as rigorous.

Found footage/documentary-style films are highly polarizing. After all, the notion that people’s lives are so unimaginably compelling that every single second of their existence absolutely has to be documented by some idiot…well, that’s a tough sell, even to the most battle-tested reviewer who’s sick to his eye teeth of up-nostril shots.

And that’s not to say the odd found footage film isn’t decent. It’s a bit like the occasional salmon that survives a spawning run. When it comes to Wild Eye releases in particular, Head Cases: Serial Killers in the Delaware Valley is an adroit, if flawed, piece of work and worth a watch.

Wolf House, though, is a slop bucket of genre cliches: the “put that damn camera down!;” one character doing a mock David Attenborough wilderness voice-over; the night vision view that focuses on friends and what might be lurking in the dark; and of course, a guy so worried about his pending demise that he records a message he thinks will be viewed posthumously (subjecting the poor detectives to hours of solipsistic garbage and dizzying camerawork).

The Wolf House narrative is simple. Friends go missing in Niagara County, Upstate New York. And this is their story.

The setup is “cabin in the woods.”

Everything’s going splendidly, and one of the guys, who looks like a linebacker Travis Bickle, proposes to his girlfriend who’s described as a “real looker.”

One morning he shoots a creature that’s not a bear but what could either be a Sasquatch or “the last surviving Bigfoot.” And then things go predictably haywire.

There are doubled up references to Harry and the Hendersons as well as to Steven Spielberg (jeez, if your conceit is that the guy obsessively documenting the proceedings is a budding filmmaker, at least craft a few decent camera shots!).

Also, Wolf House uses split screen, but Annie Hall this ain’t. In fact, it’s the only time where there’s respite from motion sickness. And even THEN it’s a useless conceit, as the split screen is for, get this, a TRANSCRIPT of a 911 call. “Caller, what’s your emergency?” “Another bargain basement turd of a found footage film. Send help immediately!”

*1/2 (out of 5)

*Latin for “Man is a wolf to man…”

Grabbers

grabbers_poster“Tis no feckin’ lobster.” No, but it’s an Avatar-blue practical effects and CG sea monster which has locals on edge in Grabbers.

Lisa Nolan is a “garda” taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Dublin crime-fighting to take a sub role on “Erin Island,” a pastoral fictional backwater where everyone gets lacquered at the isle’s sole pub (Maher’s).

Chief among these, Nolan’s new partner, Ciarán, a perpetually whisky-drunk lawman with little in the way of laws to enforce (unless you count, self-arrest for DUI and of course he turns a blind blood-shot eye to that). That is, until blue blood-sucking tentacled creatures invade, picking off locals and bungeeing them airborne, shooting them like elastic bands over thatched cottage roofs.

Richard Coyle (A Good Year) and Ruth Bradley (In Her Skin) are effortless as the cop buddies and reluctant acquaintances, who, along with resident egg-head Dr Smith, have to make sense of dead whales washed up on the beach and other mysterious incidents that are plaguing the remote locale. Their physical comedy camaraderie is on-point, and the film’s peppered with eccentric locals such as unreliable narrator and other town souse, Paddy.

We eventually learn that alcohol is toxic to these creatures, so law enforcement interrupt a Sunday mass to announce a (free) party at the local pub in order to get locals sufficiently sauced to build up a resistance. It’s a terrific send up of the oft-excessive Irish drinking culture; it’s the country that gave us The Ginger Man for crissakes, not to mention, exporting blarney pub culture all over the planet.

grabbers_pubGrabbers though, is really just a lovely, leisurely and persistently charming send-up of 1960s creature features, a real Cork-er if you will…

Irish writer Kevin Lehane asked himself, “Why do the aliens always land in America? Why couldn’t they land somewhere else?” Lehane, born and raised in County Cork, reproduced real-life Sherkin Island on screen here. And that somewhere else is lovely, with rugged terrain and beautiful sunsets.

You can see the love that went into Grabbers.

Grab a pint, build up your immunity, and enjoy.

And Happy St Patrick’s Day.

***1/2 (out of 5)