If you consider that the found footage horror film really found its footing in 1999 with the release of The Blair Witch Project, then you understand just how bold a claim, "First found-footage horror film to..." really is. Doesn't really matter what follows those first six words. We're talking about a sub-genre that's beyond exhausted, and approached in seemingly every way possible. Over 18 years of making excuse after excuse as to why the camera must keep rolling. "First found-footage horror film to..." couldn't possibly mean anything today. Could it?
Well, shit, if I'm not as surprised as everyone else who's had the chance to watch this, because apparently when it ends with "...incorporate 3D into the plot", it turns out that yes, it can mean something. A feat in itself I'd say, producing a film like this one and having any aspect of it turn out original. And while the 3D part of Found Footage 3D stands as the center-piece attraction around which the narrative coalesces, it's the strong performances and on-screen chemistry that really sell what this film is offering.
The story goes:
A group of filmmakers set out to make the first 3D found footage horror movie, but instead find themselves in a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.
Right off the bat, it must be said, the film takes all the time it needs to properly establish relationship dynamics. Now, I'm sure to some of you this sounds like coded language for "really really dull", but I assure you, it's not. Yes, Found Footage is a slow burn, but these early moments work as an investment towards a harder hitting finale. As an example, two of the leads working in and on the film-within-a-film, operate through a highly volatile personal relationship. There's a tangible amount of tension which carries over from reality to fantasy, and as the stress of wrapping production increases, the tension and animosity grows to dangerous levels - both in front of and behind the camera. Ultimately this negative energy manifests itself in a very disturbing way, coinciding with the explosive crescendo of the final act. And boy, what an act it is.
Seriously, once shit starts to hit the fan, the film refuses to slow down. In fact, the rate at which Found Footage 3D accelerates itself into the territory of blood, guts and dread is so rapid, that you're given absolutely no time to prepare; with the time spent in these moments all but ensuring no chance to compose yourself either. It's exhilarating and terrifying, not unlike what I imagine being trapped in a speeding car, brake line severed and heading straight for a cliff, would feel like. If the first half or so of the film - with its strong characterization and plot development - was made to drop my guard, then I can say confidently that the second half, and all its paralyzing power, was made to jolt me straight into an early grave. This was - legitimately - one of the scariest close-outs to a horror film in some time; one I was thrilled to be blindsided by.
Then there is of course the fact, that this found footage film is actually shot in 3D. Typically seen as a shoe-horned gimmick in pretty much every film not named Avatar, here, the mechanic is justified - cleverly - through the narrative itself. The aim both with and within the film, was to deliver something the sub-genre has yet to see, so the self-aware - meta - nature of it all worked perfectly in that regard. The effect itself is, well, effective! Unless you're completely adverse to wearing light plastic glasses, you'll find that all the horror-related strengths of Found Footage 3D, become amplified with this viewing format, so I definitely recommend watching it in this intended way. However, if you can't be convinced of the benefits (or happen to be physically incapable of viewing 3D images), there's always the 2D version which is still pretty good.
Now, the narrative justifications don't just apply to making things pop out of the screen. It's also used to poke fun at the sub-genre itself. Steven DeGennaro, and by extension the characters of Found Footage 3D, are very much aware of the tropes and cliches associated with horror films like these, so no beats are missed nor opportunities squandered when it comes to incorporating some healthy self-deprecating humor into the story. Additionally, this same self-aware humor can almost sort of work as a shield against criticism.
You see, making fun of yourself makes it harder for others to do it. Harder, but not impossible. While the film cleverly leverages the negative expectations and tropes of the found-footage sub-genre to its advantage, it still isn't impervious to that same criticism. For instance, there's a point early on in the film where the cast and crew discuss the pros and cons of practical FX vs CG, and how their own budget certainly wouldn't allow for high quality use of the later. Unfortunately they are right, and some moments that show a little too much of the evil "Spectre", also show a little too much of the budgetary limitations. Thankfully it's only a couple times, and Found Footage 3D recovers it's atmosphere very quickly, so no time is wasted in getting the ever-loving shit scared out of you. In 3D.