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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #478

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: July 14, 2012
Sub-Genre: Psychological/Splatter
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $8,000
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Scott Schirmer
Producers: Leya Taylor, Damien Wesner
Screenplay: Scott Schirmer
Based on Found by Todd Rigney
Special Effects: Arthur Cullipher, Shane Beasley, Kirk Chastain
Cinematography: Leya Taylor
Score: Bing Satellites, Aaron Marshall, Magician Johnson, Greg Wright, Lito Velasco
Editing: Scott Schirmer
Studio: Forbidden Films
Distributors: XLrator Media, Hulu
Stars: Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro, Louie Lawless, Shane Beasley, Angela Denton, Alex Kogin, Andy Alphonse, Kitsie Duncan, Kate Braun, Edward Jackson, Adrian Cox-Thurmond, Brigid Macaulay, Dane Irwin, Christopher Hunt, Austin Rawlins, Russell McGee, Todd Rigney, Nathan Erdel, Izabella Brown-Sparks, David DeMoss, Brandon Howell

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It takes a lot to shock me. Tobe Hooper’s 1973 exploitation classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre managed such a feat but, despite numerous other films burrowing beneath my skin since, there have been precious few capable of twisting my guts in anywhere near the same manner. I’ve been watching horror movies for well over three decades now and have become largely desensitized to whatever grunge is being lobbed my way. However, I live in perpetual hope. So when a piece of art such as Scott Schirmer’s Found appears on the scene and catches me totally off-guard, it reminds me exactly why I took this gig in the first place.

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Make absolutely no mistake, should you be of a weak disposition, then you will want to be giving Schirmer’s film a decidedly wide berth. Famously endorsed by Elvira, Mistress of The Dark for being “as horror as horror can get”, I am inclined to agree wholeheartedly with her statement. Once watched, you cannot ever unwatch Found. It’s as simple as that. Moreover, no amount of rigorous brain scrubbing will remove its interminable stain from your memory. The most battle-hardened amongst us will welcome the nightmares which arise as a result of spending time in the presence of Marty and his older brother Steve. Shrinking violets, however, will soon grow weary of the soiled bed linen.

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Based on Todd Rigney’s novel of the same name, Found endured a decidedly problematic shoot and it’s quite an achievement that it ever actually reached completion. The role of Steve was originally intended to be played by another actor but Schirmer met fierce resistance from the lad’s parents who regarded the entire project as deplorable. Eventually, through sheer bloody-minded persistence, things resolved themselves. Ethan Philbeck stepped up to the plate and, having seen his performance, it is hard to imagine anybody else filling his shoes. Meanwhile, Gavin Brown showed maturity way beyond his tender years as he was merely twelve at the time when shooting commenced and took to his role as 10-year-old Marty like a real mini trooper.

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Opening with the memorable gambit “my brother keeps a human head in his closet”, Found wastes no time in setting its tone of brooding menace. We are introduced to Marty as he shares with us his big brother’s dark secret and, soon after, get to break bread with his fragmented ménage. On the surface, his folks appear no different from any other suburban family but it soon becomes clear that they are in rapid free fall. While Marty is still very much the golden boy, there is a disconnect with Steve and particular hostility between him and his father. It is unclear what has transpired to create this void and, like any other family, they muddle through as best as they can. But the underlying feeling is that turmoil is approaching fast.

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Outside of the decline of his home life, Marty has the usual problems which plague any ten-year-old boy searching for his identity. Despite keeping his head down at school, he is constantly teased and bullied by the other kids, and we are afforded a personal tour inside his head space through way of remarkably sincere and mature narration. Brown’s performance is truly startling, particularly given the atrocities he is forced to endure. Schirmer attempts to coax believable performances from a number of child actors throughout and this, in itself, is a thankless task that yields vastly differing results. However, he gets it bang on the money with Marty and seldom have I seen a more considered and committed turn by one so lacking in life experience.

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Meanwhile, Philbeck is similarly outstanding as budding serial killer, Steve. Bearing an uncanny likeness to his baby brother, he is far less of a focal character, particularly during the opening act when Schirmer wisely keeps him largely at arm’s length. This lends him an air of the mysterious and, as we begin to learn more about the motives behind his surreptitious nocturnal activities, he is totally up to the challenge. Their relationship is warmly observed and provides Found with its back bone as Schirmer is disinterested in making things clear-cut and prefers to pose questions about the solidarity which exists between brothers, rather than cut away their bond before time.

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Perhaps the most pleasant surprise comes in the form of the audio and it is here that Found truly belies its meagre budget. Virtually every scene is accompanied by music which heightens everything we are witnessing on-screen. Whether ominous synth stabs to destabilize us or beautiful piano compositions to help convey the emotion, the sublime sound design elevates the experience markedly. Director of photography Leya Taylor also impresses, particularly when faced with wide open spaces, and captures any natural light exquisitely in these moments. Meanwhile, the fact that both Brown and Philbeck give such assured performances allows Schirmer to enter their personal space without concern and their eyes tell a thousand tales of their own. One more nod must go to Lowell Isaac whose graphic novel-style title credits are simply out-of-this-world.

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The opening act takes an admirably patient approach and it isn’t until we are introduced to Headless that events truly escalate. Along with Humanoids From The Deep-style creature feature throwback, Deep Dwellers, it provides us with a film-within-a-film and Found begins to reveal its full spread of bloody tail feathers. Essentially an homage to the exploitation/slasher cinema of the early eighties, it features all manner of depravity, and it is here that many viewers may be forced into taking a quick tea break.

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The personal violations which play out are unspeakably cruel and all but the most jaded splatter enthusiasts will likely be reintroduced to their half-digested lunch at this point but the scene reverberates for other reasons aside. Angela Denton gives a hugely creditable performance as the tormentee while Shane Beasley inhabits the masked madman in question with such lopsided swagger that you can almost taste the sickness.

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On the precise contrary to the blunt madness of Headless, Schirmer exercises admirable restraint during the film’s mortifying climax and this is absolutely the correct decision as it leaves you no less traumatized as a result and shows that he is interested in far more than simply bludgeoning us to within an inch of our sanity with visceral gore. I struggle to recall a moment during my entire filmic upbringing which has shell-shocked me as much as he achieves here with a simple open doorway. As for the closing shot, that will likely stay with you like airport luggage for the foreseeable.

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Found is not flawless by any stretch of the imagination but to expect such from a $8k production would be beyond unreasonable. However, anyone who labels this as exploitative trash is missing the point spectacularly. Schirmer’s film tackles such thorny topics as racial prejudice, bullying, sexuality, gender identity, the loss of innocence, and compromised family stability as well as posing the uncomfortable question of whether or not watching horror movies warps fragile young minds purely because it makes for such fascinating discussion. He doesn’t shy away and neither does he supply any clear-cut answers and this is a shrewd decision on his part as the film lives on long after those end credits have rolled, along with the sick feeling deep in our stomachs. Prepare to be soundly repulsed Grueheads but keep in mind that you may wish you had never found Found.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The practical splatter by The Clockwerk Creature Company is exemplary and, when Found shifts gears, it really goes pedal to metal. Decapitation is a given and, barely a minute has passed before we are given head. However, it’s what happens afterwards that will haunt your dreams perpetually, particularly during our exposure to Headless which somehow manages to make Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik films appear tame. Prepare yourselves for eye gouging/tasting, breast slicing, and head fucking aplenty and best run a bath beforehand as you’ll damn well be needing it. It is worth noting that there are numerous different versions available and many of them have been subjected to cuts. For the record, Philbeck’s jumbo member is prosthetic so no need to feel inadequate.

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Read The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Appraisal

Read Dead Girl Appraisal

Read Sick Girl Appraisal

Read The Orphan Killer Appraisal

 

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