Thursday, August 14, 2014

Den, The (2014)

Director: Zachary Donohue
Notable Cast: Melanie Papalia, David Schlachtenhaufen, David Shapiro, Anna Margaret Hollyman

Just when you thought that found footage horror had lost all the charm of its gimmick in limiting the visuals of film, The Den pops up to take it one step further. This little slasher horror flick tells its story completely through video screen captures on various mobile devices. While I wasn’t necessarily sold on the film by the end, the concept remains fairly unique and my respect goes to director Zachary Donohue and the other writers for even attempting such a ridiculously limiting gimmick. The results might be a rather mixed bag, but considering how found footage horror has already cannibalized itself into a corner then I will take a fresh spin.

Elizabeth (Papalia) just got a grant to do a social study about a interactions on a rotating random social media site called The Den. When she sees someone murdered in front of her eyes on the site though, she begins to spiral into a world where a killer has the ability to use your computer against you…

"Gotta keep the camera recording...even if it means death!"
I’m sure you’re probably wondering just how the hell you present an entire movie via webcam like The Den accomplishes. Well you take a little bit of Cry_Wolf and mix it with a smidge plot convenience then voila: instant horror film. While the plot does take a bit of a suspended sense of logic to swallow (at least in the sense that everyone seemingly leaves their laptops and phones on when they do things and that hackers are able to remotely control everything,) the film itself plays out the first two-thirds as a nice little horror mystery. It makes the audience think about who might be terrorizing this poor girl and it adds some fun moments to build the mystery. Entire apartments are cleaned out, police cyber crimes seem to have a thumb up their ass on how to trace anything, and our evil burlap masked killer has very skillful ninja moves to make sure he is neither seen nor heard unless its timed for a jump scare. In a way, the film is silly fun that kept my interest even if the mass amount of clichés can be a bit overwhelming (a leaked sex tape to ruin her life? Oh noes!)

The inherent problem with The Den, outside of being relatively cliché and plot hole riddled, is that it lacks a lot of stakes for our heroine and her buddies. By half way through the film it was pretty apparent what the end was going to be even with the complications that the writing threw at the viewer. It was obvious enough that the one thing that makes horror so horrifying, seeing hope dwindle away for those we have a connection with, never really came to fruition. That way when the finale comes around, it rolls out flat.

Worst Halloween costume ever.
In the end, The Den is your pretty basic slasher that just happens to be done with the gimmick of ‘screen captures found footage.’ It was surprisingly fun to watch, considering how cliché it is overall and the lacking punch for its third act, but don’t go into it with too many expectations or it might leave you looking for something else.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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