Friday, 19 June 2015


Found footage.

Still here? Good. I don't think there's a sub-genre that has become more maligned in recent years.

Which brings me to Infliction. A movie that markets itself as 'the actual assembled footage taken from the cameras belonging to two brothers, who documented a murder spree in North Carolina in 2011'.


So, is this a killer flick? Or a movie that you inflict on yourself?

Read on…


Dir: Jack Thomas Smith

Starring: Jason Mac, Elliot Armstrong, Ana Shaw, Catherine Trail, Don Henderson Baker, Mahri Shelton, Kimball Ewonus, Darren Kendrick, Gina Travis, Ruthanne Gereghty, Vanessa Ore

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Brothers John (Mac) and Kenny (Armstrong) work in surveillance, investigating and finding proof of infidelity for suspicious lovers with a host of recording equipment. However, their business is interrupted when they receive a call from their mother (Trail), informing them that their ailing father (Baker) has taken a turn for the worse. 

Rather than seem upset, the more driven and determined John sees this as a spur into action, a prompt to carry out a series of events that the young men have clearly plotted for some time.
After kitting out their car with plenty of cameras to document their road trip, the two set out to return home... but with a few detours.
The first of these sees them accost a judge (Ewonus), taunting him and lambasting him for the way in which he casually exerts a considerable influence over hundreds of lives. Then, in a shocking and bloody moment, we are shown exactly how far the boys are prepared to go with their 'project'. 
And Judge Stevens' name is just the first on their list...
How many victims have the brothers targeted? What links these seemingly unconnected individuals? And what is the dark and disturbing secret at the heart of John and Kenny's motivation?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Perhaps the finest element of Infliction is the mystery at its core. I don't want to spoil that here but it unfolds gradually and slowly reveals a far darker, grimmer series of events than I thought it would. This gritty and horrifying reveal serves to add a degree of satisfaction to the film's climax, plus it adds some much needed perspective to our two lead characters' actions. What's more, the vile and haunting events of the characters' past is more truly horrifying than any number of quasi-supernatural masked boogeymen.
The story, by writer/director Smith, is impressive and surprisingly powerful, with a weighty central theme investigating the impact of one's actions (or perhaps more accurately, inaction) on another.
It feels very much like a statement, a social commentary on the role apathy or the fear of rocking the boat plays in destroying lives. With this movie Smith is encouraging the viewer to realise that what may be easier for you is not necessarily what is best for others, especially those that are most vulnerable and in need of society's protection. It's thought provoking, which in itself is worthy of praise in a genre that is all-too-often prepared to stick to a shallow and simplistic 'blood and boobs' formula.
Of course, a theme and intent aren't necessarily enough to carry a film, it is the execution that matters most. The movie is pretty polished considering its low-budget roots. Smith and his cinematographer Joseph Craig White ensure that visually the production values never drop so that the events onscreen become confusing or difficult to work out, an all too common problem with many found footagers. Each shot is brilliantly and artfully framed and lit, while the editing is smooth and never feels choppy, which can really hinder a movie which claims to tell a true story.
But as well as a stomach churning plotline and some polished film-making, this also features some pretty damn strong performances from its cast.
The leads Armstrong and Mac provide assured, capable work. A lot of the movie hinges on them and they do a good job of keeping us onboard, especially during the emotionally fraught and disturbing final moments.
However, it was the brothers' family that really steal the show. As their sister, Andrea, Shaw really is quite magnificent. It's a complex character and Shaw nails it, making her both sympathetic and repulsive in equal measure. I was unfamiliar with her work prior to watching Infliction, but rest assured I shall be looking out for her in the future.
Trail plays an equally complicated character, a vile enabler whose unwavering loyalty and devotion to her ailing husband would be admirable in other circumstances. She brings a haunted fierceness to the role that is very impressive. 
And where to start with the wonderful Don Henderson Baker? His character is, quite frankly, hideous, his sick dying body an accurate reflection of the rot at his core. It's a rare thing to find a truly hateable villain in a movie, but Baker achieved this with an impressive performance that combines subtle nuances with scene-chewing, sneering dialogue delivery. He's utterly loathsome, in the very best way. 
If there is just one thing in Infliction that makes it worth your time, it is Baker, he really is brilliant.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I said before, I still enjoy the found footage sub-genre — however, unfortunately, I don't think that it was the best storytelling choice for Infliction.
It's not that it's terribly executed — far from it, I've seen far worse attempts with significantly higher budgets to support them.
No, what hinders Infliction is its poefaced insistence that this is genuine assembled footage from a real-life killing spree. This is pretty much guaranteed to provoke some serious cynicism in the audience and as such it invites the viewer to meticulously dissect the movie, looking for flaws that expose it. It's easy enough to suspend disbelief, right up until somebody tells you to. 
Unfortunately, the film isn't believable enough. The lines feel like movie dialogue, not natural stop-starting speech and the impressive production values and quality of visuals actually serve to remind us that this isn't an amateur effort shot by a pair of violent killers. The steady and assured camerawork is that of an accomplished filmmaker, not an emotionally volatile murderer.
This may seem like a minor nitpick, but in a subgenre that many viewers have become decidedly tired of, unfortunately, a found footage movie has to work a little bit harder to get an audience onside. The immersive benefits that this narrative device offers are plentiful, but alas if it does misfire at all it can actually act as a barrier to enjoying the film. A lot of years have passed since 1999's The Blair Witch Project, audiences are less gullible and found footage has to be hyper-convincing. This may sound strange, but to put it simply, Infliction is too well made. It looks too good, the camerawork feels decidedly planned and well organised, not haphazard enough. Equally the dialogue is too precise, which combined with a couple of awkward deliveries here and there just serve to remind us that these are actors reciting a script, not 'the real acts of real murderers'.
Are you somebody that is sick of found footage or the horror cliche of 'the following is based on true events'? Well, I'm afraid Infliction is not the movie to change your mind.

THE VERDICT: This is a strange one. I really liked Infliction's ballsy plot, it's assured storytelling and strong cast. In fact I only had one problem with the movie — the manner in which the story was told. 
Had the film been told using a traditional set-up and foregone the 'genuine assembled footage' claims, it'd be an easy recommendation. As it stands, I'm still going to recommend it with a small caveat — found footage is not this film's friend and you need to forgive that to truly enjoy it, but underneath it is a very good film indeed.
Check it out and let me know your thoughts, I for one had a good enough time and I can see plenty here that has me eagerly anticipating Smith's next efforts including his cool as hell looking In The Darkwhich I implore you all to lend some support to via its Indiegogo campaign here.
You can buy Infliction here for a very reasonable price, or check out the film's Facebook page for more info. Give it a Like while you're there too, I'm Smith and co would appreciate it.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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