September 23, 2014 (DVD)
Gavin Brown as Marty
Ethan Philbeck as Steve
For my buck, there’s nothing greater than a micro-budget picture that soars beyond expectation, leaving eyes wide, the jaw slack and the brain befuddled. Scott Schirmer attempts to create just such a film with the shoestring effort, Found. And amazingly, it works, completely. Having never heard of Schirmer I held little expectations for this flick. In my mind, it was on par with every other uninspired, meagerly funded film out there. One hour and forty minutes later all those physical symptoms I mentioned had overtaken me and I was left to contemplate one single and powerful thought: Scott Schirmer just immediately staked his claim as a top flight genre prospect. Found is a bit like Assault on Precinct 13 in the sense that they’re both semi-flawed productions that ultimately prove extremely rewarding as well as – dig this –defining. They’re both breakout films. Assault on Precinct 13 put John Carpenter on the map, and helped make Halloween a reality. Found – whether Scott knows it now or not – is going to turn quite the number of heads, and it’s about to open up some major thoroughfares for the man. Schirmer is going to be a big player in this field inside of a half decade.
Based on a novel (that I’m now dying to read!) written by Todd Rigney, Schirmer adapts the screenplay in addition to directing. And he does an excellent job. When a film opens up with a line like, “my brother keeps a human head in his closet,” you know that – as the kids say these days – shit is about to get real. And it does. It gets almost too real. And there is no big movie magic to remind us that this isn’t real life, it’s just entertainment. Anytime a production comes across with such intense realism, you’ve got to not only extend your full attention, you’ve got to study the film, because something went very, very right in the creation process and it can’t hurt to hunt for the strengths that elevate a basic concept into the echelons of amazingness. And believe you me, there’s something very amazing about this film.
Marty is a 12-year old kid struggling at school. He doesn’t fit in. His affinity for comics, or graphic novels, is dominant enough to usher the kid’s reputation into the realm of nerdism, and there aren’t many who care to take up company with an introverted dork. In fact, more are prone to pick on and bully the poor little fellow than juggle a brief conversation. The fact that Marty has discovered his older brother is a serial killer whose modus operandi includes severing and keeping heads in a bowling ball bag doesn’t make life any easier. Marty is confused and terrified. Uncertain of all things around him, bewildered by his brother’s love for murder, he becomes curious. He scours the secret items each member of his family keeps hidden away (in his mother’s case, love letters from a man who isn’t his father; in his father’s case a stash of nudie mags; we know what secret big brother Steve has tucked aside), he looks within himself and examines the issues that have made him a target. He simply wants answers, peace and a little respect. But all his snooping leads to an extremely dark showdown that will pit virtually every member of this family against one another, and you can bet your lucky stars that casualties will arise. The prominent question is, will Marty himself survive this ordeal, or will his head end up in a bowling ball bag?
There are problems on the technical front, the sound being a big factor, and a few camera angles and positioning decisions are questionable. But it’s the good in the film that overrides those issues. The score is totally and utterly haunting. The decision to feature Marty narrating the film as well as playing a crucial role in the flick is an excellent decision. The acting doesn’t reflect the efforts of seasoned veterans, but everyone on board really, really tries. They give it everything they’ve got, banding together to help deliver one damned unsettling coming of age tale. And that passion is what wins the viewer over. I enjoyed the gore, and the editing is inspired. The story unravels in slow but steady fashion, and that’s exactly how it should be played. There’s a detectable buildup that brings to mind vintage works, before movies were designed to appeal to viewers with three second attention spans, but that deliberate pace makes for an amazingly captivating conclusion. This is a payoff and a half, and it didn’t cost much of anything to assemble, that’s visibly detectable. And it’s okay. We’ve got that rare micro that makes us want more, a film that feels as though it was made by hardcore fans for hardcore fans. And Schirmer can rest easy knowing that he’s given the fanatics one of the year’s most impressive. Found is 2014’s The Battery, and if you’ve seen The Battery, you know that is not only a tremendous compliment, you also know something memorable waits on the horizon.