The Fear Footage trilogy is an indie gem. It’s not perfect, but what started out as a horror anthology a la V/H/S has slowly morphed into a more fleshed out story that attempts to explain the anchor plot in the original. A refreshing twist on the found footage genre, the third entry, Fear Footage 3AM, features some of the series’ most unsettling moments.
At the start of the third entry, we are introduced to Dennis, a road tripping vlogger who has seen the first two films and decides to visit the town of Darkbluff to see if the stories are true. In the first act of the film, I was disappointed at first to see that it again featured acting that felt stilted, as if the character was acting to the camera. However, it became clear that Dennis’ manner of speech and movement were actually for the benefit of his audience. Dennis was on his own for the majority of this film, and so we get more of a sense that how he acts on camera for his followers is different than his everyday life. It was a subtle shift in tone, but one that I thought was a big improvement over The Fear Footage 2.
Dennis notes that he lives in Maryland, and has never heard of Darkbluff. He begins to wander the town, finding homes with showers running and beds unmade, as if the people living in them suddenly disappeared. The fact that his tours of these homes happen in broad daylight made me physically uncomfortable; after all, if something happened to them, what happens once it gets dark? Because we are following Dennis’ POV, I felt like I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, and found myself trying to will him to get out. It was simple and still very effective in building up the dread for nightfall.
Where the film really hits its stride is the second act, where Dennis becomes somehow trapped in the town. The road he is on is suddenly no longer a road. Sounds are coming from the woods in the dark. He’s turned around, and can’t seem to find the way he came. The more disoriented he becomes, the more the tension builds as we are braced for something to come jumping out of that dark, dark forest. This movie is all about anticipation; the anxiety of waiting for something to happen makes it all the more frightening when it finally does.
I loved that this third film was attempting to head into some new territory. We get to see more of the town, and get a sense of Darkbluff as a place, but also the possible scope of people that are impacted. I also loved that the callbacks to the previous movies were subtle, little Easter eggs designed to reward the fans. However, the tension breaks before the finale as the movie begins to re-tread familiar territory. The ending drags a little as a result, which is a shame because I was genuinely afraid for Dennis.
Overall, if you are looking for a fun found footage that doesn’t rely on CGI to deliver amazing tension, look no further! The Fear Footage trilogy is low budget, for sure, but it doesn’t skimp on unnerving its audience.