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For some reason, the found footage genre continues to proliferate, with titles popping up every year that do little to expand or innovate, most simply piggybacking on ones that came before it. Almost always a horror film, the genre is bound by its trappings and yet somehow seems unlikely to end. Now comes The Gracefield Incident, a new horror film that follows in the same footsteps, and while there is promise in the premise, the film is ultimately over-acted and mostly too predictable to work like it should, despite some obvious ambition.
After a terrible car accident leaves Matt (Mathieu Ratthe) without an eye and his wife Jessica (Kimberly Laferriere) losing her unborn baby, the two seem ready to move on almost a year later and so head to his boss’s expensive cabin in the woods of Quebec. They bring along two other couples, best friend Jonathan (Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles), Jessica’s brother Trey (Alex C. Nachi) and their dates. Being a kind of technofile, Matt has rigged up a mini camera in his false eye while Jonathan has brought his new recording equipment. At the cabin, they discover the owner has installed a bunch of tracking and security systems supposedly to find Bigfoot. That night though, when a large meteorite crashes nearby, they investigate and to their horror, they encounter an alien creature. And it’s not so friendly.
Written and directed by Ratthe, The Gracefield Incident is a fairly standard by-the-book horror film that feels very late to the party, the genre packed with titles done long before that even then felt spent. While Ratthe does have some good ideas, they are mostly wasted in keeping the tenuous found footage aspect afloat, including the use of the glass eye, which serves no other purpose than to create a way to keep the theme in place, as does a cabin that is conveniently outfitted with numerous cameras and monitor. It’s a clever set-up, Matt bing so tech-savvy, but it has no payoff. Admittedly, everything about the alien is intriguing and Ratthe creates some decent tension around it, but the film does nothing but step with big feet into the same ruts so many of these movies get stuck in.
From endless jump scares punctuated by booming sound effects and long tracking shots in the dark that reveal only in hints at what’s around to the camera always pointing in the right direction, The Gracefield Incident is a stew of old standbys. It’s made all the more implausible by performances that are uneven and often over-the-top, even as efforts are made to really push for some emotional depths. Nearly everything spoken is steeped in exposition, narrating everything we see happening, and many moments would have had far more impact if they were simply silent.
The problem with these found footage films are the cameras themselves, forcing the filmmakers to try and find ways to have them plausibly make sense, and it so rarely ever does. The conceit of a camera in a person’s eyes at least makes for an honest attempt but as mentioned, The Gracefield Incident can’t even make that seem authentic. There are numerous scenes where the camera in one person’s hand is not even pointing at the person speaking but when shown from their point of view, it is, and this really drains some of the legitimacy the film is aiming for.
With a cabin in the woods, cornfields, crop circles, lustful young people and an angry alien, there’s not much here that we’ve not seen before, some scenes directly copying moments from other movies, such as M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs. An ambitious effort, Ratthe can’t be blamed for trying to hedge in on the trend. He does work in some good moments of suspense and in truth, the story does have potential, but the film fails mostly because of its premise, the found footage narrative device significantly weakening what might otherwise have been a good movie.
Movie description: The Gracefield Incident is a 2017 action/horror film about three couples spending a long weekend in a luxurious cabin when suddenly an uninvited guest in the form of a meteorite, comes crashing the party.
Director(s): Mathieu Ratthe
Actor(s): Laurence Dauphinais, Juliette Gosselin, Lori Graham, Mathieu Ratthe