CHATTER: An Unnecessary Entry To The Found Footage Genre
In Matthew Solomon’s Chatter, Agent Martin Takagi (Tohoru Masamune) comes across the intimate video chats of married couple while monitoring Internet traffic for the Department of Homeland Security. The married couple, played by Brady Smith and Sarena Khan, begin to discover that their new home is haunted. In the same vein of horror films such as Paranormal Activity and the more
In Matthew Solomon’s Chatter, Agent Martin Takagi (Tohoru Masamune) comes across the intimate video chats of married couple while monitoring Internet traffic for the Department of Homeland Security. The married couple, played by Brady Smith and Sarena Khan, begin to discover that their new home is haunted. In the same vein of horror films such as Paranormal Activity and the more recent Unfriended, the mechanics within this film felt familiar. Chatter clones a prosaic Hollywood formula and perpetuates the idea that films void of creativity are sufficient.
Most of the film takes place within the frequent Skype chats between the husband and wife who, due to career opportunities elsewhere, have to temporarily live separately and primarily communicate using the video chat software. Every chat becomes progressively concerning for the couple and for Takagi, who is watching them on his work computer. The film primarily takes place in these two main settings: Takagi’s office in Homeland Security, and the video chats. It is the setting, rather, the sets themselves that caused some problems for this film.
Mise-en-Scène and Other Flaws
The mise-en-scène in Chatter was distracting to the story: many of the props and materials used in the sets seemed thrown together. The opening set, for example, resembles a supply store caricature of an office with bare walls, a fake plant, and a tin container holding pencils. These haphazardly assembled sets continue throughout the film and ultimately become distractions to the story.
What differentiates this film from many others in the same genre is that the footage is essentially being “found” as the film progresses. However, the film quickly devolves into a stream of horror clichés that kept me from investing any energy into the story. Doors open, floors creak, lights turn on and off and the actors respond in exaggerated and misguided ways. They attempt to show marital tension and paranormally-induced fear but what we get is writing and acting that comes across as more insincere than the fake plant in the corner of the office.
In a found footage film, forced acting like this is prone to become highlighted. There were many moments in this film where I could easily imagine the director prompting his actors to, “look scared” or “act concerned.” These drawbacks kept me from immersing myself into the story.
To be clear, I am not trying to dismiss the found footage genre. In fact, I tend to be quite fond of it. Films such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and The Last Exorcism are films I sincerely enjoy. Yes, it is overused, but what is more important, is that regardless of the it being “found footage” or not, films (specially horror films) should focus on employing creative ideas within whatever format is chosen.
Horror in Itself
In many ways, I wish I hadn’t seen this movie. I love horror films and I am always pulling for it to be good and prove that horror films are not a lost art. I understand how hard it can be to make a movie and sincerely don’t want to give a review that is negative, but I can’t get behind a film that produces the same assembly line-horror repeated to exhaustion
So, let us pause here, shall we? Let us sojourn and reflect upon what not to do with a horror movie. When done right, this genre has the potential to be entrancing, hypnotizing, and haunting in the best way. Chatter epitomizes the opposite of these horror story strengths and becomes something far more terrifying.
Jaws made people afraid of the water. The Blair Witch Project made people afraid of the woods. Chatter made me fear for the continuation for this horror archetype.
In your opinion, at what point does influence become imitation?
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