I mentioned the film Willow Creek just the other day. And I'm sure you were out there like: "Wha...? Willow Creek? What? What the F...? I don't know what that is. I have no frame of reference. My world is shattering. What is existence?" Or something like that. So, to soothe your existential crisis, here you go. Check it out...
I know, I know, you're probably like: "Meh. Fart. It's another POV film." I get you. I hear you. I've bitched about these films before. With good reason too. But for the new kids: POV films are the type of movie where the camera is operated by one of the characters in the movie. It's supposed to feel more immediate, to insert you more directly into the story, increasing the tension and empathy and all that because you're seeing it from the characters'... wait for it... Point Of View. Sound familiar? It should, you've probably seen one before, they're very common.
These films are common because the trappings of the genre allow them to be made cheaper. You don't need a crew, because most of the cast can fill those roles while playing their roles in the film. You can also shoot it pretty naturally and out-in-the-world, in fact the genre encourages this in order to "heighten the reality". Unfortunately, like all go-to first-time filmmaker film type choices (I'm looking at you, cheap zombie film), they're also iffy. They're usually bad bets. They usually suck, often filled with some of the worst acting you will ever see and feature god awful terrible stories all put together by a gaggle of untalented idiots. However, unlike the cheap amateur zombie film, POV films--if done right--can actually be really good.
But in order to be good, they need to do the following things:
1. They must make sense as to why the film even exists at all.
Why are the characters there? Even more importantly, why are they filming? Okay, fine, a bunch of local boobs are going to explore the old abandoned asylum, I've been there, I've done that, fine. But you know what I've never done? Film it. And here's a better question: Why does one of the characters even own an expensive camera in the first place? Sure, in this day and age, everyone has a camera on them, pretty much all the time... but it's a Smartphone camera, not an expensive HD rig. So why? Are they a reporter? Is it for a TV show? Do they have a personal history with the site/story? Answers those questions before you start, or you suck. At least make the attempt. Note: "Look at the new camera I bought just because," does not count as an answer.
2. It must make sense as to why the characters keep filming.
There comes a point in every one of these films where the shit has well and truly hit the fan. It all goes bad, big time. Chairs flying about. Monsters screaming. Buildings shaking. Ah! Ahh! Aaaaah! Run, dummies! Run for your lives! It is at this point that anyone truly concerned with their life would run, run like their ass was on fire. If nothing else, they would definitely stop trying to film, regardless of the camera's "low-light" capabilities. And if they dropped the camera? They would not go back for it. I mean, come on! If there's giant spider monsters and zombie children chasing us? We will get the fuck out of there, drive to Target and I will buy you a new one, all right? Good. As long as we agree on that. See, it's here that most of these films fail. Do you know why Cloverfield sucked? It's because it was a terrible movie. No, really. It was. It also sucked because a bunch of hipster wadjob douchebags would not keep filming while running from a giant monster. Do you know who might? A news reporter. This is the most important thing to think about when making your POV film. The characters have to have a real reason to stay in the situation. Find it, or you suck.
3. Acknowledge the limitations of the genre
The camera is a character. Everything that happens has to acknowledge that. You can't ignore that. The characters and the environment can't ignore that. If there's a zombie coming up behind them and the camera guy is the one in the back of the pack, he needs to be attacked first. I realize it's scarier to watch the zombie creep up on an unsuspecting character, but too bad, so sad. It also means you don't get have character interactions, or have a character be all alone and contemplative, in the same way that you can in regular movies. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. You have to adapt. If the camera is a person in the story, then they always have to be a person in the story. And most of all, understand your camera. You just can't drop them over and over again or they will break. Also, digital recordings aren't the same as taped ones, so old footage can't bleed over. It just doesn't work that way. You have to acknowledge that. Bottom line, it's very easy to cheat, but you can't or you suck.
Now... having said all that, I honestly don't know if Willow Creek adheres to any of those rules or not, but I've heard good things. Also, it was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. You probably remember him as Zed from Police Academy 2... or maybe not. Whatever. It's probably best not to. He also directed the movie Shakes the Clown, which I love, mostly for this scene:
Pure genius. Pure. Genius.
I'm sure I'll be talking about Willow Creek more in the future,