Has any two-word alliterative descriptor inspired so much abject despair in the past two decades as ‘found footage?’ (Don’t answer that, I’m sure there are plenty worse if I put my mind to it.) While the handheld, shakey-cam, first-person perspective mock-real approach has produced a good few gems – say, the REC movies, Cloverfield, Troll Hunter, Chronicle – it may also have resulted in more abysmal, braindead garbage than arguably any horror subgenre before it, and yes, I realise that’s saying a hell of a lot. This being the case, a great many horror fans like myself will approach any new release made in the found footage style with a great deal of trepidation. It is with some relief, then, that Capture Kill Release – a Canadian production from directors Brian Allan Stewart and Nick McAnulty – proves to be a cut above most films made in this manner. It still has a great many of the same problems, with massive lapses in logic, protagonists who aren’t always easy to like, an overabundance of needless filler scenes, and a premise which isn’t necessarily anything too new. However, in this instance the whole endeavour is put together competently enough, with clear skill on both sides of the camera and a good quota of gallows humour, for the end result to stand tall as a bona fide piece of filmmaking, as opposed to many of the barely-thought out pieces of schlock we so often see from found footage. (Sorry, but that distinction really does need to be made.)
Capture Kill Release centres on a young married couple played by Jennifer Fraser and Farhang Ghajar, both of whom use their own first names in the film, and are also credited as screenwriters alongside McAnulty (it seems safe to assume the dialogue is largely improvised). They seem to be a happy, normal, well-adjusted, well to-do couple, settled down comfortably in the suburbs, living the dream. We meet them as Jennifer presses record on her brand new video camera, bought specifically for some personal project the two of them are working on, the nature of which is initially unclear, but from the early scenes you’d assume it’s a simple video diary, perhaps with a little amateur porn thrown in. However, it’s only once they film themselves visiting a local hardware store, loading up on rope, hammers, saws, axes – many of which Jennifer picks up and mimes testing in mid-air – that we realise they are in fact documenting their plan of a perfect murder. Their reasons for doing this are never made entirely clear; while they’d prefer to kill someone who would seem to have it coming, ultimately Jennifer and Farhang just want to do it for the sake of doing it. They know their victim can’t be anyone that could be linked to them, and they know that when it comes down to it, the murder itself will probably be the easiest part, with the real work going into disposing of the corpse afterwards. Ah, the crazy shit young couples will do, eh? Of course, once they reach the point of actually going through with it, their relationship dynamic takes a perhaps inevitable turn for the worse.
The key thing that immediately places Capture Kill Release on a higher level than most found footage horror is the cast. Fraser in particular is either on, or just behind the camera for more or less the duration, and I was genuinely surprised to learn afterwards that this is her very first screen credit, as there are plenty of seasoned microbudget horror actors who could learn a lot from her; nor is Ghajar any slouch. The two of them are entirely convincing as newlyweds on just the wrong side of the honeymoon period, and much of the film’s black comedy value comes from the fact that the seem to be approaching their homicidal enterprise in much the same way that others might treat remodelling the house; witness one moment when, whilst mopping up blood, they ponder whether it’s a good an excuse as any to re-tile the downstairs bathroom. The fact that Capture Kill Release is for the most part a character-based affair, brought to life by skilled actors, with hysterics and shakeycam kept to a minimum – indeed, I don’t recall a single instance of the dreaded “running with the camera” trope (the fact that the main protagonists are also the killers is of course a help there) – makes the bulk of the old found footage complaints easy to overlook.
Even so, complaints can still be made. While it would seem the lack of any real motive for their murderous scheme is entirely the point, it does rather defy logic that the couple choose to record absolutely everything, particularly given that so much of their plan centres on getting rid of the evidence afterwards. There are also a fair few of those inevitable moments when you have to wonder why they would continue recording under the circumstances, and more than a few of those dead air scenes which add nothing beyond some vague sense of verisimilitude; indeed, one such moment sees them even remarking that the boring conversation they’re having won’t wind up in their final movie. Yet there it is; and yes, their plan also included editing the footage down into a feature length film… and quite what they intended to do with that film is another head-scratcher. On top of which, it’s a mite unconvincing that, once the plan starts getting serious, one half of the couple starts to get cold feet, given that in the early scenes both appeared to be entirely on the same page about it all. Common sense also goes out the window somewhat by the final scenes, with a number of developments that strain credibility and a climax that feels a little too easy and unsatisfying.
Even so, Capture Kill Release certainly warrants a mention among the better examples of found footage horror, and indeed microbudget indie horror overall, from recent years. It may not be too hard to poke holes in, but it does venture into interesting areas with a great deal more skill and creativity than other films of this nature; and again, Jennifer Fraser in particular is a remarkable discovery who I hope we’ll see plenty more of in the future.
Capture Kill Release is available on region 2 DVD on 25th September, from Eureka Entertainment.