When a film begins with a 12-year-old casually explaining how his older brother keeps severed heads in a bowling ball bag in his closet, it’s best to expect the unexpected. Such begins Found, a sincere coming-of-age drama blended with the gore and depravity one would expect from a video nasty. Sounds like a tasty recipe, but unfortunately director Scott Schirmer isn’t able to balance these two motifs (particularly during the film’s climax). Found has enough going for it to make it worth checking out, especially for those who fondly remember trips to the video store for all-night horror movie sleepovers, but overall it’s a terribly rocky film.
The 12-year-old I mentioned is Marty, a horror film obsessed youngster trying to survive the gauntlet of adolescence. He’s bullied at school, even by peers he thought were his friends, and his parents are completely disinterested in his plight. Marty wishes he could console in his older brother, Steve, but recently he’s been cold and distant towards him. Sometimes there are gleams of the close relationship they used to have, like when Steve talks to him about horror movies that’ll knock his socks off. But overall Steve’s absent from Marty’s life, leaving the poor kid alone and confused (especially about those severed heads in the closet).
Schirmer (working off of the novel by Todd Rigney) explores Marty’s complex issues in a truly thoughtful manner. His character is treated like a real person, so there’s no simple solutions to his problems or hamfisted moralizing to insult the audience’s intelligence. This aspect of the film – the coming-of-age story – is handled really well. It’s when Found dips into full-blown horror where it all begins to stumble.
This mainly occurs during the last act, when Steve reveals himself to be the depraved, perverse serial killer Marty suspected him to be (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the film’s IMDB synopsis). Prior to this there’s a scene where Marty watches a film called “Headless,” in which he imagines his brother in the starring role – severing heads and screwing their bleeding stumps. Although this graphic bit of debauchery prepares us a bit for what’s to come, when the climax goes down, it feels completely over-the-top and ridiculous. The leaps the narrative makes here are abrupt and sort of disheartening since everything leading up to the final moments was done so well. While the closing shot is supposed to be disturbing, it’s just came off as silly to me.
As Marty, young actor Gavin Brown does a great job carrying the emotional weight on his shoulders. His performance is terrifically nuanced for such a young kid. The other actors, not so much. Marty’s parents deliver their lines in a consistently stinted, forced manner that deflates the intensity in the last act’s intense moments. And while there’s an intense menace in Steve’s eyes, he too gives a stunted performance.
Like the acting, Found is overall an uneven film. There are a lot of inspired moments and, on the flip side, a lot of times where it feels like it’s trying way too hard to be shocking. The trials of adolescence are shocking and disturbing enough, no need to go putting your dick in a bloody stump.
Quick note: I’m also not quite sure what the film is saying about the influence of horror movies. Steven is a horror junkie (with an impressive VHS collection and posters littering his walls) and became a serial killer. Marty is coming up a horror fan and already comes off as numb to things like severed heads. While I’m glad Schirmer didn’t preach to us about his personal stance regarding violent media, Found seems to be arguing that yes, horror movies lead people to become severed head collectors and neck-stump fetishists.