Last Ride (2011): Into the wild

A high concept found footage film that sucks you in.

Set in the trails of Australia's Blue Mountains, a group of bicyclists head out into the wilderness, unknowingly headed towards the last ride of their lives. Our point of view is that of James, who also happens to be the film's director, as he straps a helmet cam on himself to catch the action. Writer, Director, Actor, Cinematographer James Phillips delivers the entire 80 minute film in one continuous shot, giving the amateur footage vibe all the more authenticity.

Unlike countless other found footage films, the camera setup actually makes sense here. The wide angle lens is specifically designed for sports, so the aesthetic and the reason for bringing a camera are justified. Also unique is that the camera operator need not hold on to the camera. So when things get intense, the character can run, climb, and jump, since the camera is completely hands-free. So instead of asking, "Why does so-and-so keep filming?"; we ask, "Why would he bother to take the time to stop recording?" Any writer can tell you, giving the characters reasons to keep filming in a found footage film is challenging. Thankfully, Phillips avoided this problem.

One of the great things about this film is that it is quite literally experienced through the eyes of the characters. Precariously crawling through the foliage, the characters desperately want to know what is hiding in the woods, but are also afraid to look too closely. As the camera cautiously turns each corner and spins around to capture movement, the audience is holding its breath, experiencing surprise and anxiousness in the same way as the film's characters. I found myself leaning in to the screen and turning up the volume on my speakers, eager to discover what was hunting the group. This interactiveness was refreshing, as traditionally, we are aided by zooms and close-ups that cater to the viewer. Because we are not handed anything so easily in Last Ride, the film becomes more captivating.

On the other hand, one of the flaws of the movie is its simplicity. Much of the film is spent watching characters trek through the woods, with lots of "Did you hear that's?" and "Which way should we go's?" The three act structure that us movie fans have become accustomed to is hardly present here. With the exception of the beginning and the end, the film is pretty even -- giving us the same struggles, characterization, and visuals throughout the runtime. I would have personally liked to see more unique challenges thrown in the way of the bikers, which would have provided more opportunity for character development as well as a generally more enthralling experience for the mainstream moviegoer.

Ultimately, this film is quite an achievement. The actors cover a tremendous amount of ground and emotional ranges all within a single take. The coordination and planning on behalf of Phillips and crew must be commended. While I would have appreciated more diversity in the story structure and more payoff as far as action goes, I thoroughly enjoyed Last Ride and fans of the found footage genre should seek this one out.

Check out the Last Ride Facebook or IMDB pages for more information! 


Fledging Serial Killer Needs Your Help!

A few years back, I happened across a seemingly random independent film that ended up being one of the best horror films of the decade. In fact, it became one of my all-time favorites. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon was the witty, homage-y mockumentary that earned my adoration.

It is with great anticipation that I discovered (thanks to Freddy in Space  and I Like Horror Movies ) the legend of Leslie Vernon shall live on! Upon hearing this glorious news, I ran around the house like a gazelle and woke my husband up from his sensory deprivation tank.  However, let us hasten our excitement for a moment, because there's still a chance that this prequel/sequel may not be made. I know, you may need a tissue just thinking about such potential gone to waste.

The filmmakers are calling out to fans for support. How can you help? Easy. Just pre-order a copy of the film to help Leslie find paradise. If the film doesn't get made (sniff), you won't be charged. "Like" the Facebook page, "Attend" the event, and be a hero! Follow the link for details: HELP Get "Before The Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon" Made!

In case you haven't seen the original film, you can read me gloating about it here. So if you're a fellow Vernonite or even if you're just curious, it can't hurt to throw a little bit of cash at some talented filmmakers who are delivering straight to the fans.