Ya gotta admit, the viral campaign surrounding The Upper Footage was pretty damn impressive. The filmmakers made up a bunch of phony NYC socialites and released a video on YouTube depicting one of them fatally overdosing. Everyone’s face was pixelated, and the uploader was allegedly using the video as blackmail. Pay up, or the identity of the ODer and her posse will be revealed. More clips surfaced, this time said to feature young celebrities inhaling a mountain of cocaine. Then major media outlets started reporting that Quentin Tarantino had purchased all of the footage and would be editing it into a documentary called “Upper.” Then nothing happened.
Fast forward to 2013 and here’s The Upper Footage, directed by Justin Cole – a man so enigmatic his face is pixelated on his IMDB page. Of course, we know now that the whole thing is fake, but the viral marketing they pulled off is remarkable in hindsight. It was like the bubble boy hoax of marketing. So was all the effort and media attention worth it?
The Upper Footage is the most boring movie of 2013. It’s downright painful to sit through. The movie follows a group of shitty, rich knuckleheads as they “party” the night away, which consists of boozing, using, and shouting racist/homophobic slurs from their limo. It’s like a feature-length TMZ episode with lousy actors reenacting celebrity bad behavior. Then they go back to a one Blake Pennington’s apartment to party some more. Eventually the girl, Jackie, ODs and the gang disposes of her body. But who cares? Everyone in the movie is an asshole. Hanging out with them for 90 minutes was a nightmare. Why couldn’t they all have died? That would have been a WAY tighter ending!
Cole relies on a hefty lineup of found footage nuisances, such as leaving the camera to shoot on a blank wall while the audio plays out. The ending brazenly calls back the Blair Witch Project – the godfather of found footage marketing. Cole may have a mind for marketing, but he needs to work on his craftsmanship.
The viral marketing itself can be read as a comment on truthfulness and accountability in the media. If they had just left it at that it would have been a great experiment. The movie really tarnishes what they accomplished though by failing to pierce any relevant topic. Shitty rich kids are shitty. Hanging out with a group of them for 90 minutes is pure hell. Once the veneer of authenticity was wiped away (Cole dropped a press release earlier in the year admitting it was all fake), what’s left is a grating film about a bunch of rich dickheads.