Advance Review! Released in select theaters December 11th! You can buy tickets here!

THE LOST FOOTAGE OF LEAH SULLIVAN (2018)

Directed by Burt Grinstead, Paul Odgren, Anna Stromberg
Written by Burt Grinstead, Anna Stromberg
Starring Anna Stromberg, Burt Grinstead, Maureen Keiller, Denise Walker, Matthew Pilieci, Jimmy Driscoll, & David Nash as the Creature!
Find out more about this film here!

Chasing answers to an ice-cold mass murder case, an eager student journalist Leah Sullivan (Anna Stromberg) takes camcorder in hand and tries to solve the 30 year old mystery of the Mulcahy Murders. After investigating the backstory and befriending a local police officer named Patrick (Burt Grunstead), she heads into the Mulcahy home where a dark secret hides.

Let’s go through my found footage checklist, shall we?

Are the actors believably acting like they aren’t acting?
Yes, one of the things THE LOST FOOTAGE OF LEAH SULLIVAN has going for it is that the lead character (played by co-writer/director Anna Stromberg) is extremely likable. Stromberg has plenty of personality, which makes it easy to follow her for the duration of the film. She makes for a believable reporter with high ambitions. Being a student reporter, she doesn’t have the experience of a pro, but she does know what professionals do and forces herself to act the part. The rest of the cast are believable as well with co-writer/director Burt Grinstead doing a bang up job as he unsuccessfully attempts to be the voice of reason to hold Leah back from being so reckless. It all feels like the actors aren’t acting and are very comfortable in front of the camera.

Is there an up-nose BLAIR WITCH confessional or a REC-drag away from the camera?
These two bits are the most overused in found footage films and having one or both of them show up usually shows a lack of creativity and downright lifting from way more popular material. Here, there is a drag-away of sorts, but it isn’t done in a usual fashion. For the most part, much of the film leaves the found footage clichés behind, instead telling a straight forward story about an investigation and a fateful experience with the unknown in the end.

Does is seem like this footage was actually found and not untouched by additional production (which means there is no omniscient editor making multiple edits or an invisible orchestra providing music)?
No additional music is added, which is refreshing to see since most found footage films ignore how distracting that really is. At the beginning of the film, a disclaimer is posted saying that the footage we are about to see is unedited and indeed found. For the most part, the film did feel extremely authentic, as if it were footage taken and unedited, yet filmed in sequence. Again, this adds to the authenticity of the film which ultimately makes it much more intriguing to watch. The more believable the footage format, the better the film, in my opinion.

Is there a valid reason the camera isn’t dropped and they just get the hell out of there?
Because most of the film is done in a format as if Leah is investigating and interviewing key people who can give her info on the murder case, it is believable that all of this footage is caught. When shit goes down, the camera is left behind and the investigators have to go back for the camera, something that is believable given Leah’s high ambitions for this documentary she is making. The rolling camera during the frantic parts is believable because the action happens fast and furious at the end. There’s really no chance to drop the camera as it happens so fast.

Is the lead in too long and the payoff too short?
The lead in is quite long. For the first hour of this hour and twenty-minute movie, it’s all investigation with very little weirdness happening in front of the camera. There are a few scenes of the creepy scattered throughout that Leah doesn’t notice because she doesn’t want to look back at the footage until the whole investigation is done. This hour goes by briskly as Stromberg is a fun person to follow, but I have to admit, this is one of those found footagers that takes a long time to get going, despite some scary tidbits tossed our way early on. The action happens in the last twenty minutes and it is potent, but it takes an awful long time to get there.

Does anything actually happen?
Yes, there is a lot going on throughout the film. The film does make the best of it being an intended investigative piece as we find out tiny bits and pieces as Leah continues her sleuthing. This keeps the momentum going as the mystery is morbidly intriguing. I also appreciated that the filmmakers seemed to have an entire backstory mapped out which might suggest future sequels are planned. I’d be all for this as there is a lot of mystery left by the time this film ends. The final fifteen to twenty minutes are intense. They are almost in complete darkness and while that lack of imagery can be truly frightening, I found myself being frustrated when the shoddy flashlighting barely gives us a glimpse of the horrors going on. I wanted to see more, which can be a good thing. But while the snippets of horror are potent here, I think it would have created a greater impact had there been a few more of them.

Is it worth checking out? Does it add anything new to the subgenre?
THE LOST FOOTAGE OF LEAH SULLIVAN is a competent and solid addition to the found footage subgenre. It does everything necessary to make it all feel authentic and believable. It doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the subgenre, but what it does—it does extremely well. There are some rock-solid moments of sheer terror happening in this lost footager. This film seems to be the tip of the iceberg and what we did get was some potent nightmare fuel. Those who aren’t burned out by found footage are going to find THE LOST FOOTAGE OF LEAH SULLIVAN to be worth looking for.