The Gracefield Incident, written and directed by Mathieu Ratthe, who also stars in the film, has a pretty cool hook for a found-footage film. Matthew Donovan (played by Ratthe), installs a video camera into a fake eye (I guess we used to call them glass eyes) that fits in the empty socket where his eye was before he lost it in a brutal car accident that also injured his wife and killed his unborn baby. He’s a bit of a creepy fella, because he doesn’t tell anyone about his hidden camera (cheeky lad!) while he uses it to record the goings-on of a cabin getaway with his wife and two other couples.
Yes, certainly an interesting premise, and one that I haven’t come across in the found-footage genre yet, so kudos for creativity. I was a little worried when I watched the preview that the movie was only going to be from the point of view of Donovan’s eye camera, but luckily another party-goer brings his DSLR along, so we get at least two cameras most of the time, sometimes even more because finally we have a found footage flick which actually acknowledges that everyone’s carrying around a miniature video camera in their pockets in the form of a cell phone.
The friends are all pretty grating yuppie types, so I was relieved that we’re not subjected to too much of their revelry in the woods before a meteor falls out of the sky and the lads decide to investigate. Pretty soon, people are getting picked off by a very angry alien / monster, and we’re in good shape as far as these things go.
It’s pretty standard scared-young-folks-in-the-woods type stuff after that. The movie relies a lot on jump scares, which I think is a bad idea in just about any scenario. Sure, the audience might actually get freaked out the first time or two, but pretty soon they’re anticipating the next scare and all the impact is gone. Meanwhile, the filmmakers have put so much effort into these jump scares that they don’t work as hard on atmosphere and the natural kind of tension that flows organically from the plot. This is kind of exactly what happens here.
Which is too bad, because there was real story potential here. What could have been a rather poignant ending was ruined because my senses had been assaulted for about about an hour or so. There are other parts of the movie that were bad or just silly, but these would have been easier to ignore had the movie felt like sincere effort and not just a bunch of boxes that were checked off in order to make the most money from a small budget. The alien is mostly kept in the shadows, thank god, and when he’s finally revealed, the CGI is…not good. Felt like it was just kinda slapped together. There were a lot of other things that seemed like they weren’t fully thought through. Like, if the eye-camera is static when we’re watching from Matthew Donovan’s point-of-view, why does the same eye flit around crazily when we see shots of him from the DSLR camera? Why is the eye moving at all if it’s fake? This kind of thing really takes you out of the movie. Certainly a workaround could have been found.
So, yeah, we’re left with a film that, besides the hook, lacks a lot of originality. It all adds up to an experience that’s not liable to leave a huge impression after it’s over.
The Gracefield Incident will be released on demand and in theaters on July 21st.