It seems like in 90 percent of the found-footage reviews I write, I find myself complaining about the same things. Luckily, this entry from young UK writer/director/star Drew Casson manages to take an inventive spin on the genre while only dipping into tired cliches a few times. Hungerford is wildly ambitious and despite its tight budget, Casson was able to make it feel like a large-scale end of the world, alien invasion film. Speaking as someone who has to watch a lot of bad found footage movies, I can honestly say Hungerford makes for a refreshing and charming take on the genre.
Set in the titular town of Hungerford, the film follows Cowen (played by Casson) as he documents his life for a school project. His life basically entails partying with his roommates and trying to remember what happened the night before. It’s not a very interesting video diary, until an alien invasion goes down in body snatcher form. Then his video diary begins to kick ass. If I was his teacher, I’d probably give him a bold A+.
We’re with Cowen and his friends for the entire film, so thankfully their relationships and banter feel very organic. The dialogue is believable and sounds like the shit you’d hear a bunch of twenty-somethings rap about during a horrific alien invasion. There’s some real depth and drama to the characters too, which adds a ton of weight as far as actually caring about them goes. There’s a loose romance set up between Cowen and another character that adds a real punch later on when shit goes down.
One of the wise choices the film makes is to show us everything. Too often in found-footage are we only shown glimpses of the creature, villain, etc., and it’s usually in a dark room so we can’t actually see anything. That can be effective, of course, but it’s so overdone it’s rare for that technique to conjure up scares anymore. Casson sets his film mainly during the day and gives us full-on shots of the baddies. It works well and gives the carnage a bit of a Shaun of the Dead feel. Some of the scares don’t really work, but it’s still great that the camera never flinches away.
The “film everything” logic does stumble a bit when the kids commit a heinous crime, so it’s best to suspense disbelief for that scene.
One cliche the film does perform is setting much of the climax in a dark room (like I mentioned before). It’s tough to see much of anything, the camerawork turns jarring, and it’s simply not as effective as the rest of the film. The ending is also one were fairly accustomed to by now. It would’ve been cool to see some more of the creativity displayed earlier come up for the climax.
Despite these found footage shortcomings and some stifled acting, Hungerford is an admirable and lively entry to the genre. There’s some real feeling behind the film and it certainly shows. It’ll be interesting to see what young Casson could pull off with a healthier budget.