Directed by: Mathieu Ratthe
Cast: Mathieu Ratthe, Laurence Dauphinais, Juliette Gosselin, Lori Graham
Found footage flicks are becoming so common these days that it seems half of the new additions to the horror genre are handy-cam style. We’ll field anywhere from 10-20 new films for screening on a weekly basis, and – no exaggeration – I’ll be surprised if any fewer than eight are found footage. The sub-genre has become so oversaturated that it’s becoming more difficult to identify, or even predict the successful releases. A good trailer doesn’t mean much these days, and those who cut these trailers seem to be catching on, understanding that sometimes, you’ve got to show just about every single quality second of a film just to entice viewers enough to actually look into it.
I’m not saying that’s the precise case with The Gracefield Incident, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you the film is a standout amongst its peers, so to speak. The truth is, The Gracefield Incident is a safe and familiar flick. A group of 30-somethings head out to a rural location and creatures soon begin stalking them. The only attempt at mystery comes in the question: Are the film’s protagonists dealing with a Bigfoot, or some form of other, perhaps extraterrestrial being?
In order to justify the constant filming, we get one of the more absurd decisions to creep into a film in a while… well, in five or six years, I guess I should say. it isn’t something that hasn’t been done before and hardcore horror fans are going to identify that immediately. Just as we saw in 2012’s V/H/S/2 segment, “Phase I Clinical Trials,” a man installs a camera in a prosthetic eye (in V/H/S/2 the ocular contraption is installed by professionals; in The Gracefield Incident it’s just some at-home rigging (yeah… I hope that gentleman makes a good seven figures a year with those off-the-cuff techie skills). That aspect is quite clearly lifted DIRECTLY from V/H/S/2, and it isn’t a coincidence, and it isn’t an issue of film productions overlapping and creating a crazy coincidence. V/H/S/2 was released a full half-decade, and shot six years prior to the release of The Gracefield Incident, a 2017 drop (I believe it actually wrapped in 2015, but I could be wrong) in which I can find no extensive five-to-seven-year production history on.
I’m never a fan of blatantly yanking a very, very specific idea from another film… especially not a found footage film stealing an atypical idea from another found footage film. No matter how you shake it, this is extremely sketchy and screams of an instance of obvious creative theft.
That’s not to say that plot point instantly buries the film, because that’s not fair to say. Mathieu Ratthe’s picture attempts to do a few different things… even if they feel like a general mashup of other films (Extraterrestrial being another film that sports a few very similar ideas; and that’s just one more example of influence – trust me, there are a handful out there). But I don’t want to harp on how unoriginal the film is. That’s not going to get us anywhere.
Writer/Director/Lead, Mathieu Ratthe, does what he can to make his story compelling, and there are two particular shots (I won’t spoil them) that look absolutely great and prove effective at catching viewers off-guard. The problem is, beyond that, there isn’t too much going on here worth mentioning. A few characters are decent, and feel as though their responses are organic, but for each that fall into this bracket, there are a few who feel obviously forced, and make some cringe-inducing decisions.
For a found footage film the dialog is fair. And, to the credit of the cast, the acting isn’t a complete fail, either. Again, we get a few inspired and organic feeling performances (Mathieu Ratthe himself is actually a fair performer who may be better suited in front of the camera as opposed to behind it). I can applaud that. I can also applaud some of the visual effects. Not every shot of the pic’s menace(s) looks terrific, but a few do impress. It’s got an alright finale going for it, and the scenery (the film takes place in a welcoming rural region) is nice and appealing.
I think that’s about where the positives end. So, ultimately, what we have is a very middle of the road kind of found footage piece. It’s evident that there was never a goal to create something groundbreaking, but I think Ratthe did set out with the honest intention of creating an enjoyable film. Is it enjoyable, overall? Perhaps if you’re a diehard supporter of found footage films. If you’re the kind of fan seeking that genuinely innovative first-person shocker, The Gracefield Incident isn’t going to sate your hunger for something remarkable. It’s a middle-of-the-pack sub-genre flick, so be repared.