Available exclusively on SHUDDER!

CONFESSIONAL (2019)

Directed by Brad T. Gottfred
Written by Jennifer Wolfe
Starring Lucas Adams, Paris Berelc, Annalisa Cochrane, Jess Gabor, Brandon Larracuente, Vanessa Marano, Marcus Scribner, Jake Short, Mia Xitlali
Find out more about this film here!

CONFESSIONAL is a murder mystery of sorts. Two vastly different college students end up dead at roughly the same time. Both seem like suicides or drug overdoses, but are they? Seven people are blackmailed to show up to a sound booth where they are asked a series of questions and prompted to tell the truth about what they know or what they did that lead to the deaths of these two students.

My least favorite part of found footage films is the confessional. The part where whomever is in possession of the camera looks into the camera lens and professes their supposed “last words” to their loved ones or directly telling the audience the motivations that person had for making all of the bonehead decisions that lead up to that point. These moments are filmmaking without an ounce of nuance, explaining the entire film up to this point for those in the cheap seats or those with their noses in their phones for half of the movie. So a movie that is made of nothing but confessionals is something that really tested my patience.

I will admit that the actors that play out this drama are all decently to greatly talented. I wouldn’t be surprised if quite of few of the young talent in the cast show up in bigger and better things. Acting standouts are Annalisa Cochrane as the drug dealer with a heart of gold and the tough as nails Jess Gabor. Both deliver natural and unique performances that drive the most effective emotional beats. At the same time, because the film is set up as a montage of people sitting and talking to themselves and the camera, CONFESSIONAL feels more like a bunch of acting students practicing monologues for class credit. All of the actors have their moments of scene chewing, tear tugging, and over the top pretention. Heaping these scenes one on top of the other is going to be a tough pill to swallow for some who like more straight forward cinema. I myself was frustrated at times, as this confessional talking to the camera is basically all this movie really is.

BUT…

I will acknowledge that as choppily edited and over-acted as this film is, filmmakers Brad T. Gottfred and Jennifer Wolfe are able to thread all of these performances and scenes into a compelling narrative that makes sense despite itself. In a lot of ways, CONFESSION is a film that thinks it’s smarter than it really is—acted by actors who think they are better than what they are. But the film managed to hold my attention until the very end, wondering how all of these threads were going to be pulled together. And pulled together they are. And I was rather impressed by the way it does so. The end is pretty much projected from the beginning, yet I didn’t necessarily feel my time was wasted watching CONFESSIONAL.

I acknowledge the technical skill it took to write and produce this type of experimental style of film. It does take real talent to do so. But I also feel that the filmmakers and actors over-complicated what was really a straight-forward story by using this format. That makes CONFESSIONAL an impressive technical exercise, but one that will test your patience. If you are a little more tolerant of the confessional, an aspect of reality television that is ever-crucial, I think you’d be more likely to take a shine to this one. I felt that while there were brilliant performances and successful technical achievements, the whole thing oozed of much pretention and self-aggrandizing.

Here’s the trailer!