Watching a found footage film is like going out on a first date. You’re all excited as you get ready; you pick your date up and head out to a fancy restaurant. As you sit in front of them, you first notice a zit ready to pop in the middle of their forehead and they keep going on and on about their cat, Nibbles. Despite this, you ask someone else out another first date. Of course you worry that it will just end up just as shitty as last week, but you end up having a great time. First dates are hit-or-miss and so are found footage films. Mockingbird is one of the hits. The majority of critic and horror fans, however, disagree. I guess any small budget horror film, especially found footage, is an acquired taste. Be that as it may, I personally felt satisfied after my first viewing of Mockingbird.
Written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers 2008), Mockingbird centers around a married couple, a young single woman, and a thirty-something man living with his mother. Prior to the horrific events to come, the couple’s children leave to stay the night with an uncle. All three receive a video camera at their doorstep, followed by other items. The single man, Leonard (Barak Hardley), receives a clown suit with makeup and instructions for a treasure hunt to a $10,000 prize. The woman, Emmy (Audrey Marie Anderson), as well as the couple, Tom (Todd Stashwick) and Abby (Emily Alyn Lind), receive VHS tapes of what seems to be a murder and instructions to keep filming or die. The mysterious pranksters and tormenters ultimately lead all parties involved to a showdown of deadly proportions.
A gift, would could it be?
Do I absolutely LOVE Mockingbird? Nope. It has its flaws. But I sure did enjoy the hell out of it. The opening sequence, also shown on the VHS tapes, is frightening, and a sense of dread takes over. After that scene, however, the distressing feeling subsides. This is the only real complaint I have because the opening is the most intense part. The rest of the film still does have some decent jump scares and tense moments, but nothing like that opening scene.
Leonard’s story arc within Mockingbird also adds an interesting dynamic. The film cuts back and forth between all three stories. Unlike the woman and the couple, Leonard is not being tormented. He believes he was won a $10,000 grand prize and in order to obtain it, he must film himself as this clown and find clues across town. Although he isn’t being mentally tortured, you still sense that something bad is probably going to happen. The fact that this all takes place during a thunderstorm at night adds to the trepidation felt while watching Mockingbird.
The music in the film is also a bit freaky. The VHS tapes play a haunting carnival-like tune with written messages appearing on the screen after the “scene” is over. The tormenters also play similarly haunting music while banging on the doors and walls of their victims.
At the end of the day, found footage films are always going to be overly scrutinized. Horror lovers are a special breed of fans. We are passionate about the genre and simply want to be sucked into the film we are watching.
Mockingbird does that for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have the same effect on the majority of other people who watched it. I implore you, dear reader of this article, to give it a chance. If not for yourself, then at least do it for Leonard.