The found footage horror genre might be the most ingenious gimmick since that first slasher slapped on a William Shatner mask.
The storytelling technique is also rife with problems that never resolve themselves in the new DVD release “388 Arletta Avenue.”
The film, out today on home video, creates a maddening sense of suspense while leaving far too many questions unanswered.
Nick Stahl of “Carnivale” fame stars as James, an ad designer trying to quell a minor dustup with his wife, Amy (Mia Kirshner, “The Vampire Diaries”). Little does either of them know an intruder has slipped into their home and loaded it up with security cameras. Oh, and their car is bugged, too.
Everything we see on this “Avenue” comes courtesy of the stalker’s hand held camera or the lens installed throughout the couple’s house and vehicle.
That leaves … not very much. Most found footage fests involve staring at very ordinary events and waiting for something, anything unusual to happen. That leaves character development behind, but here Stahl delineates James in specific, satisfying shades.
He’s a bit of a jerk, someone eager to blame others without proof. You also get the sense he’s hardly the world’s most tender husband.
Stahl’s performance gives us something to gnaw on while very little occurs. Yes, the multi-camera angles intrigue, but we’re still left waiting for the twist, the reason why James’ life is suddenly hell.
That “388 Arletta Avenue” isn’t very keen on supplying those answers makes the wait a burden, ultimately, no matter how ingenious the setup may be.
One odd thread in “Avenue” comes courtesy of its Afghanistan connection. We’re told Amy is studying, over an eight-plus year period, Afghan rugs. And a neighbor James suspects of playing a part in the home invasion is a U.S. veteran who served in Afghanistan. The man looks haunted in every scene. Why?
If it’s an anti-war thread the fibers are gossamer thin.
“Paranormal Activity” remains the best example of found footage horror, with the overrated “Blair Witch Project” a tidy second. “388 Arletta Avenue” offers a deeper sense of character and place than its predecessors. It still leaves us hungry for a traditionally told tale.
“388 Arletta Avenue” comes with a very brief “behind the scenes” look at the making of the film focusing on the cameras used and very little of any subtext to the project.