Tag Archives: 16 mm

Following – Review

31 Oct

Christopher Nolan is now officially one of those names in the film industry that everyone knows, and with good reason as well. With films like MementoInception, and The Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan has established himself very well. But even film makers as great as he need to start somewhere. Kevin Smith had Clerks, Darren Aronofsky had Pi, and Nolan has Following. I compare Following to the other two films because it is also filmed in black and white with a super low budget, two things these famous first films also share.

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A Young Man (Jeremy Theobald), who goes by Bill, is an aspiring writer who attempts to get inspiration for characters by picking people at random and following them for a little bit just to see where they go. He has a very specific set of rules that he uses to make sure he doesn’t get caught or become too obsessed. Of course these rules are all broken when he meets Cobb (Alex Haw), a thief whose motives lie mainly in learning what people are about and changing their lives. As Bill becomes more involved in Cobb’s “work”, he slowly becomes an obsessive thief who gets involved in ways that he never should. What Bill doesn’t know is that everything that is happening around him all serves a bigger purpose that he knows nothing about.

I heard one reviewer say that Following was Memento on training wheels and I think that is a very good way of putting it. Make no mistake, this is an outstanding effort by Nolan and his crew, especially as a first feature film. The budget for this film was $6,000 and was shot over the course of a year since the people on Nolan’s cast and crew had day jobs and could only film on the weekend. Considering this is a 70 minute movie shot on 16 mm, it’s a pretty ambitious project.

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Much like how Memento is essentially told backwards, Following is broken into three fragments and mixed up. The story doesn’t necessarily have to be presented like this, and it can be argued that it’s a bit over the top, but I personally enjoy the way it’s presented. Piecing together this film is very interesting and the way the characters are so different in every fragment builds suspense in a very interesting way. Nolan turned what could have been a film with a very straightforward narrative into something of a puzzle film.

The only thing that doesn’t sit well with me about this movie is the attempt to make the story a lot bigger than it really should be. The film really works best when it’s more of a psychological character study surrounding the two thieves and their views on society. Then, as the film goes one, we learn that there is a much bigger conspiracy going on that is nowhere near as interesting as the smaller piece of the story we are shown in the beginning. I thought this movie was just going to be a psychological journey of one man who gets sucked into an obsession that he can’t control. Unfortunately, what is actually going on is pretty unbelievable and turns the story into something totally different.

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For a first effort at a feature film, Following is a great start to Nolan’s illustrious career. There are major flaws in the story, but they certainly don’t ruin the film. The cinematography an 16 mm film make the movie look really cool in that low budget kind of way. Of course, this isn’t really something Nolan was going for. It really was very low budget, which makes it an even better movie to appreciate. You can tell from watching Following that Christopher Nolan was going to be a force to be reckoned with.

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The Blair Witch Project – Review

8 Sep

When The Blair Witch Project was released, there was a surprising amount of speculation, discussion, and chills that came along with it. Part of this can be attributed to the film’s outstanding marketing campaign, but also to the fact that this movie is in fact bone chillingly scary. The camera may make you feel nauseous and there is a fair amount of boredom to be had, but when all is said and done, I can easily rank this film as a horror classic.

Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard (all using their actual names) are three film students who are attempting to make a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. They head into a forest in Maryland where they come across strange dolls and rock formations during the day, and are tortured by an unknown force at night. Tempers flair and fear overcomes the helpless film makers, who begin to realize that they may never leave the woods.

There is a lot to think about with a movie like this. What is causing all of this terror? Is it of this world or something spiritually sinister? What is lurking in the darkness? Why can’t they get out of the forest? All of these questions are left up in the air for viewer interpretation. This isn’t just a scary film, it’s a thinker’s film. Looking at it as three people lost in the woods and terrified would be a waste. Think of all the possible explanations as to how things are happening and why. This makes re-watching this film a must to see from different angles and points of view.

This is a movie that is very important to me because it was made so cheaply, yet still very well and became very successful. It can be put on the same level as Clerks. This film can also be used in an argument that some of the greatest horror movies have been made on a shoe string budget.  Just look at the original Halloween and my recently reviewed Night of the Living Dead. The thrills of The Blair Witch Project all come from what is not seen. The imagination can be a terrifying thing. Horror films nowadays rely heavily on special effects specters and creatures that may make me jump, but rarely leave me scared for days to come. What is unseen in this film can haunt you for a good long time.

I will admit that I got bored at certain points. The transitional period from normalcy to horror kind of took a long time which gives this a slow burn type of feel. That would be acceptable if the movie was longer, but it only runs an hour and twenty minutes. This makes the amount of time I spent gritting my teeth in suspense and terror go by quicker than I wanted it to. Stil, the movie packs a major punch.

 

The Blair Witch Project has become a landmark film that has to be respected even if you don’t particularly enjoy it. The ending will leave you speechless and the visuals will leave you feeling dizzy. If you can sit through a lot of yelling and chatting, you will be rewarded with memorable implicit scares that will have you thinking about the plot, characters, and your own safety.