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Saturday, August 2, 2014

REVIEW: The Den (IFC Midnight DVD) - THE WEBCAM OF DEATH!

The found footage filming style has inspired many variations and not all of them work. Not all of them are enjoyed by fans. This style has seen nearly the same oversaturation that we experienced with the zombie subgenre as of late due to its affordability and mostly due to the success of big name titles like The Blair Witch Project and more recently Paranormal Activity (of course they didn’t start the fire). With The Den, there’s a new variant, not necessarily found footage of course (most movies today try to use a different variant of this style to set themselves apart from the pack). The main components are still there typically involving distraction by shaky cam or imperfect perspective based on the limitation in the camera (or web cam in this instance). With The Den, we see the use of a web conversation as the vehicle for a play on Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Does this help The Den to rise above the copycats?
Synopsis from IFC Midnight:

After receiving a grant for her graduate thesis, Elizabeth Benton logs onto a video-chat site known as The Den on a mission to explore the habits of its users. During one of her random video-chats, Elizabeth watches in horror as a teenage girl is gruesomely murdered in front of her webcam. While the police dismiss it as a viral prank, Elizabeth believes what she saw is real and takes it upon herself to find thetruth. Soon she finds herself trapped in a twisted game in which she and her loved ones are now targeted for thesame grisly fate as the first victim.

The Den isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t overly long and it doesn’t use cheap tricks to get jump scares out of you like some of the paranormal based on found footage or perspective filming. Despite the fact that you’re predominantly staring at the world through two different perspectives (the two ends of a web cam conversation) it doesn’t exactly get old. Granted there isn’t much movement and the story line is somewhat flat. The basic idea: you randomly tune in to a webcam chat and see someone murdered… was it real? Enter our amateur Nancy Drew on a hunt to discover if the violence she has witness online is real. You know how this goes. It’s a rabbit hole we’ve been down before with Jimmy Stewart when it was more suspenseful and mysterious. We can’t expect Hitchcock, but I think it’s an interesting story that isn’t altogether dull.

If you already hate found footage movies or their POV variants, you will not like this (even though it isn’t technically found footage). You’ll dislike the perspective, you might enjoy the brief violence and maybe the last 20 minutes but getting you to that point will be next to impossible. For those of you who do not mind a different perspective on horror or a story told from a different camera angle and point of view, this will be interesting at first but perhaps to obvious to be a neo-classic that inspires a genre. The web cam perspective was done better in V/H/S franchse, but then again that was a short film, and perhaps that how The Den would have worked better.

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