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Camcorder Carnage
by T.J. Tranchell

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Don't lie. You thought it was real, too.

Don't lie. You thought it was real, too.
If you've ever watch your home movies from the pre-digital 1990s, you know how scary they can be. Hours of relatives making stupid faces, telling bad jokes, and pretending to be camera shy. All you wanted was for someone to get hit in the crotch so you could win $10,000 from Bob Saget. Maybe you got lucky and captured a lightning strike or a dog chasing its own tail.

We won't talk about your attempts at amateur pornography.

It's amazing to think that someone actually made any money with a camera they bought with daddy's credit card, but it has happened. Forget the short films you made in high school. Yes, those were a necessary step in your filmmaking evolution but they weren't "the show."¯ Now remember how pissed off you were ten years ago when you saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and said to yourself, "I could have made that."

You didn't. I didn't, either. I used my Panasonic VHS camcorder to tape weddings and goof off. We all need to get over it.

I won't lie to you. I bought the hoax. The first bits
Good premise, subpar film, great soundtrack. Two out of three ain't bad.

Good premise, subpar film, great soundtrack. Two out of three ain't bad.
of footage I saw were too real not to be trusted. It wasn't so much naivete as it was my desire to believe. I was not alone. By the time I saw the film in the theater I knew it wasn't real but I didn't care. I loved it and I was angry when some of my fellow movie-goers stood and yelled at the screen.

"That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen,"¯ I remember hearing. There weren't as many swear words as one might think. I did see it in Utah. The disappointment of half the crowd threatened to surpass the quiet excitement felt by the rest of the crowd. I couldn't breathe after the final frame. I sat, listening to the slurs directed at the film and trying to hear if my heart was still beating.

I went again a week later. I would have called it deja vu, but I wasn't surprised by the outcome.

Another admission: I went to BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS on its opening night. Please, don't think less of me for it. It wasn't a waste of time, but I should have gone to a matinee. I've only watched it once since then
We only have one shot at this, so let's make it count.

We only have one shot at this, so let's make it count.
and I still like it. I'm not rushing out to see it again.

Since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT became the ultimate indie success story, I've been waiting for a film to capture that same magic. Something in the herky-jerky handheld images appeals to me. Combine that with the best excuse to keep action off screen (always remember, what you don't see is worse than what they can show you) and it's a winning formula for me. No one had been able to do it, much to my dismay.

One last guilty plea. I didn't see CLOVERFIELD when it was released. I was in the middle of a self-induced protest against PG-13 horror movies and I was practically broke. I had to choose what movies I saw with more discretion than I would have liked. It was not until Tuesday night that I finally saw CLOVERFIELD.

CLOVERFIELD = off screen action + handheld images - one camera = winning formula.

Notice something in that equation? Unlike THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which combined film and video, CLOVERFIELD is shot from a single camera. It builds on
Instead of just recording mayhem, the camera in PEEPING TOM was the killer.

Instead of just recording mayhem, the camera in PEEPING TOM was the killer.
the POV shots of films like PEEPING TOM and HALLOWEEN and runs wild with it. If our humble cameraman Hud doesn't see it, neither do we. In fact, we only see Hud's face three times in the whole movie. One of those times is when he dies. The rest of the time, we only get his voice, which sounded to me a lot like Jason Lee. I half-expected him to show up in some two-minute cameo, Kevin Smith-style.

I also kept waiting for the tape to run out or the battery to die. Apparently, camera batteries last longer than cell phone batteries. I'd like to know what kind of camera they used. It can support ELP tapes (hence the implied seven hours from start to finish), has a decent light on it, and has night vision.

Night vision? If my camcorder had night vision capabilities, I'd have a lot more footage of things that go bump in the night.

Not that kind of bumping, you sicko.

Now I'll just have to wait for the first successful movie shot entirely with an iPhone. It could happen. Perhaps one of you has already started it.

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The Show Begins at 10:31.
Every other Friday

Take my hand and follow me to the darkest corners of the theater. All your favorite monsters, psychos and masked killers are here, waiting for you to say hello.

Other Columns
Other columns by T.J. Tranchell:

Feeling (Rob) Zombie-fied

Hit the road, Jack

The scariest movie of all time

Universal's forgotten fiend

Home is where the horror is

All Columns

T.J. Tranchell
Born on Halloween and raised in a single screen theater managed by his grandpa, T.J. now spends more time than should be healthy staying up past midnight reading Stephen King and watching Friday the 13th movies. Part 3 is the best one.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to T.J. Tranchell by clicking here.

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