Therapy (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

therapyA Night watchman finds blood and camera equipment in an abandoned property on a land he was hired to patrol by developers.  He turns these in to the local police who go through the hours of recorded evidence.  On these, they find a group of campers being terrorized and picked off one by one.

Sixteen year old writer and director Nathan Ambrosioni mixes regular film style with found footage to mixed results.  Here he takes the youth in peril tropes and pairs them with a cop mystery and some unfortunate found footage.  The story and characters are fairly basic with a killer that looks mostly good but does very little on screen.  The characters are quickly introduced and given relationships, just enough to try make the viewers care about their fates, and then they are picked off in what could be considered horrible ways if we fully saw what happened to all of them.  The characters are basic in a fairly thin plot, what saves the story from being just another bland found footage film are the police procedural scenes peppered throughout.

The cast here is mostly unknown which is a necessity for found footage film to work.  However, given the mix of found footage and regular police procedural style, this may not have been needed.  Also, most of the cast is relatively unknown unless you have seen Ambrosioni’s previous found footage effort Hostile.  The cast composed of Ambrosioni himself, Vanessa Azzopardi, Luna Belan, Nathalie Couturier, Julien Croquet, etc does well with the material they are given.  Some of the performances are a bit one note, but the characters are simple enough that they do not require extraordinary range.

The cinematography here is painful.  So much shaky found footage, it’s just not visually appealing.  The non-ff scenes are also shot with some shaking and sketchy framing.  The reviewer/photographer wanted to grab cinematographer Fabrice Ambrosioni and sit him down with other movies shot in the same sub-genre but in visually attractive ways.   Headache inducing should never be a goal, even with found footage.  For an example of how to shoot the sub-genre properly, Troll Hunter is one where this is done so well.

The special effects by Laureen Kaczmarek and Melanie Rathelot are simple but work within their scenes so, as props are given where props are due, they deserve to have their work noted. No matter the story or scene, the simple and effective blood work is good and fits with the killer and his victims.  The killer’s design is not going to re-invigorate the genre, but his Michael Myers-like suit is decent and the simple mask is creepy, giving us a killer that is pretty imposing and works best in the dark.  His look and outfit are fairly good, but they do remind of so many other killers that they lack any kind of originality.

Therapy is better than Nathan Ambrosioni’s previous offering Hostile which played Fantasia in 2015; however it’s not by much, his style and filmmaking knowledge are evolving and getting better, given he’s only 16 years old, he has plenty years ahead of him to learn more and get much better.  I’ll be following his evolution but might wait a while before watching another of his films, especially if he stays in the overdone and tired found footage sub-genre.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.