Editor's Note: It has been over 2 years since I first reported on the indie horror Found. Glad to see it's all finished and a worthy entry in the genre. Contributing writer Bradley Hadcroft got a chance to screen the film and talk to its director. This is definitely worth a read!
By: Bradley Hadcroft
Found is a coming-of-age horror/drama from director Scott Schirmer developed from a novel by Todd Rigney.
Told from the perspective of 5th grader Marty (portrayed brilliantly by the ultra-promising Gavin Brown), it’s as genuinely intelligent as it is intensely disturbing. Marty discovers a succession of severed heads encased within his elder brother Steve’s bowling bag. He must learn to accept and deal with the emotionally-complex ramifications, alongside dealing with the more common but no less complicated demons associated with growing up. Think Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer meets The Wonder Years (totally drained of all whimsy) if you will.
Having played many festivals, the movie has picked up an impressive haul of awards along the way and deservedly so. Low-budget indie horror films have the freedom to explore less-traveled cinematic paths and this one capitalizes fully. Found dictates its own pace as it navigates its way through some pretty dark territories before arriving at one of the most harrowing destinations in recent memory.
The film wears its literary roots openly upon its bloodied sleeve in terms of narrative, but here the obligatory voiceover is neither overused nor intrusively imperious. Wonderfully delivered by Gavin Brown, it serves to enhance the story arc and propel the drama. It is not a lazy fail-safe device used to paper-over budgetary cracks as is too often the case in low-budget horror.
Here is what Director Scott Schirmer told me:
“After I read the book, I wanted nothing more than to make it into a movie and I'll be eternally grateful to Todd for giving his blessing."
Thematically, the movie is layered in a satisfactorily intricate manner. On the surface, it’s a tale of misplaced family loyalty; dig further and the skeletons of bullying, religious bigotry and racist indoctrination become exposed. Burrow deeper still and we see the fossilized origins of horror movies themselves in the form of ethical conundrums as old as the genre itself. Why do we want to view despicable acts on film? What is our complicity? Does screen violence nurture and provoke latent psychosis?
Here is what Scott Schirmer had to say:
“I love coming-of-age stories and horror movies, and there are so few of them that succeed on both levels. I also liked the bullying and nostalgia aspects of the story, as well as the correlations Todd's story draws between sex and violence. In a way, I think horror films are always about sex and violence, and Found speaks directly to that point in a pretty provocative way.”
Found demands quite a lot from the viewer regarding patience and commitment but the rewards are plentiful. There are loads of cult horror references to spot which is great fun. Horror fans could just as easily freeze-frame the close in shots of VHS spines and check them off as analyze the monster betting-board in Cabin in the Woods. There are also delicious slices of horror flick nostalgia to delve into. The clandestine late-night video viewings with friends and the fevered raiding of a rental library play like an art house indie-horror Spielberg.
This little $8,000 movie punches well above its financial weight when it comes to its inventive and diverse soundtrack. The same goes for its superbly animated opening credits, its frequently chilling imagery, and the surprisingly gorgeous cinematography. However, when it comes to gore and makeup effects, it's wearing knuckle-dusters into the bargain. This may in turn lead to a fight with the censors in some territories as I suspect copulation with a severed head is a hot potato that has not cooled down much since the days of Haute Tension.
The film's approach to screen violence is indeed an interesting one. The claret flows when you least expect it and is used with restraint when you might be expecting rivers of gore. This not only allows the imagination to illuminate the worst of the horrors but cleverly ties in with the central themes and issues the filmmakers are offering up for debate.
And what can we expect in the future from Scott Schirmer?
“I am currently developing several new projects, including an anthology feature that Todd is writing, an avant garde post-apocalyptic movie, and a more ambitious supernatural piece that would require a bit of funding. In the meantime, I'm also working with friends on various short films and music videos, but hopefully I can start directing again after the holidays.”
This is a film that could only have been made outside of a big studio's influence and only been realized so fully by a talented and committed group of people, and as such it should be applauded. Subtly shocking, invasively perverse and smartly devoid of pretension, I strongly advise you seek out Found.
Found has no distribution deal as yet but One Eyed Films is shopping the film around most of the world for distribution. Talks are ongoing with Monster Pictures in Australia and the UK as well as a handful of companies in North America. As Scott Shirmer puts it - “Something will eventually shake down.”
Found can be ordered here or you can stream it on July 26th at IndieHorror.tv