By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 21, 2011 at 6:40PM
The idea of 'found footage' -- taking a well-worn genre, usually horror, and giving it a mock-documentary spin, to make the terror and thrills that much closer to reality -- has been having a real kick of energy for cinema of late, pushing filmmakers to fascinating new places in a bid to do something different, with fascinating results that will provide food for thought in film studies classes for years to come.
Wait, sorry, somehow that first paragraph slipped through a hole in time from 1999, shortly after the release of "The Blair Witch Project." In the decade-and-a-bit since, found footage horror films have become just as tired as the endless "Scream"-indebted knock-off slashers that dominated the genre before them, with a string of films from "The Last Exorcism" and "Diary of the Dead" to "Apollo 18," most of which add nothing to the artform other than a continuous competition to see who can cast the worst actors, and have the most incoherent camerawork.
But the films, with their deliberately poor production values, are super-cheap to make, and while few have matched the power of the "Paranormal Activity" series at the box office, most remain profitable (particularly as they're popular in the rental and VOD markets), and so they keep on coming, and one more looks to have been set up. According to Deadline, Universal have picked up an untitled spec script in the found footage genre from Bryan Bertino, who
won the figure-skating gold at the 1988 Winter Olympics came to fame as the writer and director of the sleeper horror hit "The Strangers" a few years back.
The script was at one point circulating with the title "Mockingbird," but that's apparently been dropped. Plot details are under wraps, other than the found footage gimmick, and the fact that it's 'a thriller,' although we suspect, given its provenance, that thriller may be a euphemism for 'horror' here. Jason Blum of Blumhouse (Rob Zombie's upcoming "Lords of Salem"), along with Marc Platt and Adam Siegel ("Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," "Drive") are producing, although maybe don't get too excited about the latter two; they might have been behind two of the best, most distinctive Hollywood movies of the last few years, but they were also behind "Cop Out" and "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud."
Still, "The Strangers" was a well-regarded, if derivative, take on a familiar home invasion trope, although at present Bertino, who's also meant to be making horror "This Man" for Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, isn't set to direct the film. There's no word on when it might move forward, but these films can often come together quite quickly, so it might not be long before we're avoiding it in theaters.