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« SLEEPWALK WITH ME | Main | MON AMI »
Sunday
Mar172013

FOUND

Stars: Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro, Louie Lawless, Alex Kogin, Andy Alphonse, Shane Beasley and Angela Denton.
Writer: Scott Schirmer; based on the novel by Todd Rigney.
Director: Scott Schirmer:

Rating: 4/5

A grisly but oddly affecting amalgam of JJ Abrams’ Super 8 by way of William Lustig’’s slasher classic Maniac, Scott Schirmer’s Found paints a realistic vision of internalised teen alienation as filtered through a horrific external existence.

Set in a strangely unidentifiable time and place not dissimilar to smalltown America but in which dads take their 12 year-old sons to midday showings of Zombi Massacre, Found is thematically invested most profoundly in a world of secrets and memories.

Our protagonist, the cherub-faced early-teen Marty (a superb Gavin Brown), finds solace and strength in the slyly procured knowledge he has of his family’s lives – his mum (Phyllis Munro) keeps love letters from an old flame; his dad (Louie Lawless) hides a stash of porn magazines; his older brother, Steve (Ethan Philbeck) keeps the severed heads of his serial-killing indulgences in a bowling-ball bag in his bedroom.

The tensions in Marty’s home are familiar, as his response will be to many who have sought out Schirmer’s film. He descends into a world of manufactured horror, embracing the world of B-slasher movies (in another nod to a fractured timeline, he hires VHS ‘video nasties’ from his local drive-up rental den). This backfires when he discovers a film called ‘Headless’, a grotesque work that chronicles the sick actions of a killer whom Marty fears has inspired Steve.

Already a social outcast having been bullied at school and soon on the outer with his tough-talking friend David (Alex Kogin), he turns to Steve for understanding. He begins to relate to the dissociative, sociopathic world of the mass-killer; it is not a great leap to imagine John McNaughton’s landmark 1986 film, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, as a sequel of sorts. The final image, a blackly brilliant piece of tension relieving humour accompanied by a perfect line-reading, suggests a long, horrible existence awaits Marty.

Feeling way more violent that it actually ever becomes (barring the graphically-staged ‘Headless’ footage), Todd Rigney’s adaptation of his own novel will nevertheless tax the fortitude of even the hardiest horror-philes. Whilst the majority of the narrative’s uglier moments take place off-screen, audio clarity and the gruesome by-products of a maniacal rampage are employed in detail (Australian audiences who recall the details of the 2001 Gonzales killings in Sydney’s North-west may be especially rattled).

Scenes away from the home (a schoolyard incident and its consequences; a violent encounter at a church meeting) feel somewhat over-staged and rudimentarily acted; no character development or narrative momentum would be lost if these passages were tightened up. At 103 minute, the running time feels a little strained.

But not a single frame is wasted whenever Gavin Brown or Ethan Philbeck are on-screen. Marty seems worryingly close to just about every single ‘average kid’, suggesting the motivation to indulge in the dark, confused musings of ones early youth is always a possibility; Brown, on-screen for almost the entire film, is a revelation. Philbeck, quite simply, is terrifying in his own ordinariness.

Scott Schirmer’s crafting of a young boy’s hellish suburban normality is as strong a coming-of-age tale as Abram’s drama. Whereas that film knelt at the altar of Spielberg, Found takes its film-buff inspiration from the likes of early De Palma,  Argento or Cronenberg. They are hard acts to follow, but Schirmer knows his stuff. Found is a singularly sick, sad story and announces the filmmaker as a notable talent.

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