A Common Crime – Psychological Thriller

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A Common Crime (2021) is the new Argentinian psychological thriller with supernatural elements from director Francisco Márquez. Having not seen his directorial debut The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (2016), I went into this piece relatively blind, albeit interested in the Argentine perspective of what a grounded horror/thriller should be. What I didn’t expect was that the film might reignite memories of one of my favorite, though sadly most neglected, directors.

From its opening scenes A Common Crime permeates a sparse realism that, while inducing a mild anxiety, also for me echoes the subtle and meticulous stylings of Austrian virtuoso Michael Haneke. With majority diegetic sound and very little music, viewers are made to feel a part of the world they are watching, that is if they can get past the apparent ‘slowness’ that it shares with Haneke’s work. Long, rigorous camera takes allow each scene and the performances within them to breathe, and the result is absolutely hypnotic. 

The plot is simple enough; sociology teacher Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) has a maid whose son is constantly harassed by the police. One night Cecilia awakens to the boy knocking frantically at her door. Fear takes over and she merely hides in the shadows as some vague struggle seems to occur. When the boy shows up dead the next day Cecilia is plunged into a personal hell of paranoia and self-blame. Clear and definite themes of guilt and grief are explored within the tight, oddly-claustrophobic framing of Márquez’s world. Subtlety and detail are offered in bucketloads, along with a surprising amount of atmosphere from such a dark and restrained story.

That being said, this is no by-the-numbers thriller. Borderline experimental in presentation, you’d honestly be forgiven for growing tired of the repetitive psychological episodes A Common Crime descends into, or at least for hoping for some kind of payoff at the end of it all. That expectation came to me from repeated past viewings of Haneke’s beautifully bland stylings which almost always involved some kind of heavy shock punishment for letting his work seep into you. While trying to navigate the minefield of spoiler-free reviewing I can only say I was left with a confused, perhaps a little concerned, expression as the credits began to roll on this one. It took until the ending for me to realise that A Common Crime was nothing like I had expected. This is, on the one hand, a testament to its mesmerising nature, though that nature was primarily the thing which left me feeling lost on more than one occasion. 

A Common Crime movie poster featuring a woman screaming

Rather than make a full-blown psychological horror, Márquez shows a lot of discipline and moderation. A Common Crime sticks to it’s drama-fuelled thriller territory while using classic horror tools to enrich the presentation of its story. While most scares are longer-running and based around reactions, any up-front chills attack within enough space to enhance their effect. Even the score felt more dreamy than dread-inducing. That being said, the parts come together quite effectively as a whole. The unease I felt during its run time did reach that of films such as Hagazussa (2017) and Krisha (2015), as it relies more on its commitment to an uncanny feeling of irregularity that admirably holds up to the very end. 

A Common Crime is an honest, bold and intellectual drama which teeters on thriller territory in plot alone. Keeping enough to its chest to allow its mystery to envelop the viewer, it thrives in its own quiet world with barely an enhancement from clever editing or sound tricks, which in itself is an accomplishment. It may not be quite what you’re looking for, but give it time to sink in and you’ll be wanting more like it in a heartbeat.

A History of Found Footage in Horror

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Found footage is a horror film subgenre that posits what the audience is watching is a “true” story that was filmed by “real” people. The recordings have been “discovered” and are presented as either the raw uncut movie, or they’re woven into a particular narrative that acts as an overarching story framework for the footage. Because the fictional crews are usually amateur filmmakers, the camera work is often shaky and unprofessional, the scenes tend to cut away during the action, the acting is very naturalistic, and commentary may be provided in real time during the filming. 

Though it often crosses over into the domain of pseudo-documentaries or mockumentaries, this subgenre is set apart by its insistence on suspension of disbelief – the filming, the marketing, and the viewing experience all push the notion that what you’re seeing really happened. This is a subgenre that resides largely within the broader genre of horror as its techniques and tropes lend themselves well to horror. Indeed the “realness” of found footage films makes them that much scarier. Of course there are examples of found footage in other genres (Project X, Chronicle, District 9, Zero Day, and Earth to Echo to name a few), but the fact remains that the genre has been popularized by and largely populated with horror films.

It’s also interesting to note that there is a literary precursor to found footage in the form of epistolary literature and texts from the early 20th century. Both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are written as a series of letters and journal entries that have been discovered by a third party. Many of HP Lovecraft’s tales, such as The Call of Cthulhu, are also written as though they are real first-hand accounts being recounted in found documents and manuscripts. 

Found Footage Horror Through the Decades

Cannibal Holocaust found footage horror movie poster
Cannibal Holocaust poster

The origins of the found footage horror film can be traced back to a single, viscous little movie from the eighties that shocked the world, almost ruined the director, and gained a cult following. Cannibal Holocaust is about a rescue team who goes into the Amazon rainforest to search for a missing documentary crew. The lost crew was there to film the local cannibal tribes, and the rescue team comes across their film cans and the horrors that are recorded therein. Real indigenous tribes, a cast of amatuer actors, and actual animal deaths on screen, all added to the realism of the found footage style, making many audiences believe the events in the movie actually happened. The director was arrested on multiple obscenity and murder charges (the cast had to vouch for him in court) and the movie was banned in multiple countries.

The intense brutality, sexual violence, real animal killings, and grimy realism of Cannibal Holocaust almost sent the film to obscurity, but in the decades since its release it has become an icon of sorts in grindhouse and cannibal cinema, and its found footage style has influenced numerous directors and later movies. However, because of the movie’s general lack of appeal to mass audiences, its legacy as a pioneer in found footage filmmaking is often overshadowed by the more popular movies that came in later decades.

The Blair Witch Project found footage horror movie poster
The Blair Witch Project poster

Though there are other examples of found footage movies from the eighties, the genre really exploded in popularity during the early 21st century. This resurgence is unequivocally thanks to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, which managed to break into the mainstream and pop culture in ways that were impossible for Cannibal Holocaust. Arriving in a sweet spot of amateur camcorder enthusiasts and the rise of the Internet, The Blair Witch Project capitalized on both of these aspects to immense success. The filmmakers recorded the film to look like a home movie and also incorporated a marketing campaign that included missing persons posters and a website detailing investigations into the case. All of this combined led to many people believing the movie was true found footage, and the film also became a landmark example of how financially lucrative a shoe-string budget movie could be. 

Golden Era of Found Footage Horror Films

Woman on bed in Paranormal Activity found footage horror movie

The early 2000s into the 2010s became the Golden Era of the genre as a slew of found footage films were released, many of them achieving both critical and financial success. The 2007 Spanish film REC received numerous awards and spawned several sequels. Another 2007 film, Paranormal Activity, broke box office records, stunning audiences, angering studio executives, and opening the gates wide for independent filmmakers to throw their hats in the ring. Cloverfield was released in 2008 and was praised for its viral marketing campaign and cinéma vérité style. Other popular films during this era include Lake Mungo (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), The Devil Inside (2012), V/H/S (2012), Creep (2014), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), and many more (plus all the sequels you could ever want). 

Though the output of found footage movies has slowed down some in recent years, it’s clear that the genre still has some gas in the tank. For example, recent entries – such as Unfriended (2014), Unfriended: Dark Web (2018), and Host (2020) – are getting creative with technology to showcase their scares, utilizing elements like web chats and video calls. New means of storytelling mixed with the time-tested tropes of the genre leave us excited for the future of found footage in horror. 

A Samurai Faces His Demons in a Short Film Based on Classic Japanese Mythology

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Indie Horror Scary Movies and Series

Have you ever had a dream that felt so real….

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In it’s short 6 and 1/2 minutes ONI takes you on an adventure through a dream, demon awakened from a cursed samurai sword, and a sword fight. It’s beautifully done and worth every second. Bravo to the creators who did this with next to nothing in their budget.

“Oni” is the latest from Anthony Pietromonaco, co-produced by Manifest Film LLC and Louvard Entertainment, and sponsored by Samuraiswords.store. Actors Toru Uchikado (Castlevania, Heroes Reborn, Westworld) and Masashi Odate (The Last Samurai, Letters from Iwo Jima) are the leads.

Original character design by Jaremy Aiello (Star Trek, Annabelle, Mortal Kombat) and Tanner White (Bone Tomahawk).

The film follows a young man, the real-life descendent of the hero “Momotaro” from the classic Japanese folktale, as he confronts a demon trapped within a cursed sword.

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“We wanted to figure out a way to make a classic folktale (one known to nearly all Japanese people) present in modern-day western culture, ” says Pietromonaco. “The basic premise is that the historical figure “Momotaro” used an ancient sword to seal the gateway to a Japanese demon world. Thousands of years later, an American soldier finds the sword amidst the rubble of a temple during WW2 and brings it home to the states – not knowing what it really is. His grandson inherits the sword, and demons (Oni) within start to wreak havoc in an attempt to escape once again.”

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The film was made as a proof of concept with an extremely limited budget, a cast/crew of less than 10 people, and was a labor of love for all involved. The film features some impressive visuals from the same team behind the starwarsdarklegacy.com fan film.

You can view the complete film here – https://youtu.be/zI9In0EvpH0

Are the Saw Movie Death Scenes Real?

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Scary Movies and Series

Could the Saw Movie Deaths Happen in Real Life?

The Truth About the Saw Traps [Saw Movie Facts]

The Saw movies are incredibly innovative and realistic in presentation. The death scenes may be insanely cruel, but they are also super scary as the audience is able to imagine these traps existing in real life.  As sophisticated as the traps may be, their designs are crude and the audience can usually relate to the components and parts within the contraptions, making them much scarier.  But what is the truth about the Saw movie deaths? Would people actually die in the Saw traps if they suffered them in real life? Would the Saw traps hold up in a real torture house and could the Saw movie deaths actually happen in real life? Were the scenes based on a real life Jigsaw like killer?

Would the Saw Traps Work in Real Life?

Would Jigsaw’s traps actually work in real life? Horror Enthusiast has decided to investigate the traps a little more closely in order to find any plot holes or weak links which may have allowed the victims to easily escape their fate without losing their lives so quickly.

The Timer

A lot of Jigsaw’s traps are timed. In the Saw movies, it is important to time the traps, as the movie only lasts but so long. In real life, a timer would not always be necessary. However, following the same basic foundation of involving a timer that activates a trap’s killing feature if the victim does not overcome the situation, is possible.  Timers are notoriously used by really bad people for really bad things (i.e. bombs), but also for really great people for really great things (i.e. Mom’s good old Thanksgiving turkey). 

Wiring a timer into a trap is most certainly possible.  Unfortunately it would require a MacGyver or a special agent to be able to stop the timer, and even then the chances would likely be slim due to the restrains and anti-tamper mechanisms which could be present.

Body Mutilation

A lot of Jigsaw’s traps involve body mutilation. Sometimes Jigsaw has cut into someone, hid an item inside and sewn them back up. Other times the victim is required to chop off parts of themselves in order to “make weight” to survive.  Regardless of how its done, body mutilation is a regular theme throughout the Saw franchise.  The idea of requiring weight on a scale and only having your own body and a saw present is a chilling concept. 

Requiring body mutilation and/or mutilating a victims body before or during a Saw trap is absolutely possible.  In the event there is a scale that is accessible, it may be possible to trick it, though the traps typically ensure no tomfoolery goes down.  If a key has been implanted behind your eye…you’re pretty much in trouble.

Poison Gas

Many victims have been poisoned. Poison gas is quite simple to work into a trap and is extremely realistic.  In fact, it would be very easy to create a toxic air within a confined space.  Poison gas is essentially used as a timer throughout the entire second movie, Saw II (2005). Unfortunately, it most certainly is possible to find a real life Jigsaw trap house that is rigged up with poison gas.

Poison gas is a really hard adversary to beat. Firstly, it would have to be detectable and a lot of gas used for poisoning can be odorless. Secondly, it requires a chemical respirator.  It is not possible to simply hold one’s shirtsleeve up to their mouth…as the poison particles will fit through the cloth fiber just as easily as oxygen.  Finally, as time progresses, the body weakens when poisoned, so by the time a victim realizes what is happening their motor skills and reasoning ability is on the decline.

Trap Mechanics

A lot of the traps involve actually locking the victim into place, or locking the trap into place on the victim.  These scenarios make it extremely hard for the victims to be able to fully comprehend their scenario, including who else is in the room or who could be involved.  The traps are absolutely possible in real life, and the mechanics in the movie could definitely be replicated, thus, the horror is real (unlike say, a supernatural horror movie villain). It is very difficult to think about anything other than escaping and there is typically a scary doll or voice telling you that you are about to die because you are a bad person.  

The likelihood of escaping a trap due to faulty mechanics, are poor. The mechanical capability of the trap would depend upon the trap designer, however, it is definitely possible to conceive both, simpler and more complicated traps of the similar sort seen in the Saw movies. In fact, the realistic nature of the traps, make the Saw movies some of the scariest of the horror movie franchises.

Final Words About the Saw Traps

Art of a scene from the saw horror movie series

No matter whether a victim could have survived a Saw trap in real life or not, all of the traps seen in the movies are most certainly dangerous. And they all appear to be very well designed, and quite realistic. The danger experienced in these traps is absolutely life threatening in almost all circumstances, the traps even appearing highly intellectual in design and being extremely functional in operation. Ultimately, the Saw traps are extremely dangerous and no one should tread lightly if attempting to survive a Saw movie.

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