Gore night at Toronto After Dark got going with the little indie gem, Found. Directed by Scott Schirmer, the film opens with a young boy, Marty (Gavin Brown) telling the viewer that his older brother, Steve (Ethan Philbeck) keeps human heads in his closet. He goes on to tell us very matter-of-factly about how it’s a different head every few days, and usually African American women. We find out that Marty is obsessed with horror movies, and that he only really has one friend at school – and a couple of large bullying enemies. Soon, his real life becomes a horror movie in itself as Marty finds out more about the depravity of his brother’s secret mindset – and finds himself increasingly isolated from the world around him.
I actually really enjoyed this film a lot, although there’s some tightening up required to make it really sing. Still, the foundation is there for Found to be an all-time fave, and I have no doubt that – with some tweaking – it will get into the hearts of many. It’s a horror film, to be sure (and a gory one, at that), but it’s also a coming-of-age tale, with themes of family, love, bullying, and mental illness that has way too much heart to be considered a mere gore-fest. I believe the film was shot on a Canon 7D, too, which in and of itself can look pretty cool, but there were some creative camera angles and amazing lighting that made for absolutely gorgeous shots throughout. Even the blood looked pretty!
Newcomer Gavin Brown turned in a flawless performance, and held his own with those sharing the screen with him. I particularly loved the scenes between Marty and Steve (Ethan Philbeck was so good I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d acted his way into a split personality!), and between Marty and his mom (Phyllis Munro), as she clearly loves her kids, but has no idea who they are, nor how to relate to them. Watching as she struggles to connect is almost as heart-breaking as knowing that Marty secretly wants her to. The other kids in the film also turned in some pretty strong performances, especially Alex Kogin who was pitch perfect in every scene as Marty’s only friend, David.
I think for me, the way it all came together rang true to me throughout, and that’s what I loved most about it. Everything felt somewhat familiar, somewhat plausible, and each character’s reactions and interactions seemed honest and real. I spent half the movie not completely trusting Marty as a narrator and story-teller, because I suspected some of what he was saying was really just all in his head. Or something. I hadn’t figured out an alternate plot, or anything, and I really liked the character from the moment we met – I just wasn’t certain that I trusted him entirely. I mean, I was 12 years old once. I made stuff up all the time, particularly whenever I had a hero-worship thing going on, the way Marty does with Steve. Marty either looks at Steve as the basis for his comic book (sorry…graphic novel) superhero/anti-hero killer character and imagines him doing some pretty graphic things, or he doesn’t much care that Steve does some pretty graphic things, because he’s his brother and Marty really loves him. Loves him most, I think. That dual dynamic worked very well in the framework of the film because it seemed very true to life, to me.
Before the screening began, director/co-screenwriter/editor/man of many hats Scott Schirmer took to the stage to say a few words about the film. He mentioned that he’d had no budget to work with and so had saved up his money to buy the things he needed. He pointed out that our cell phones take better video now than videocameras of 10 years ago did, and so if we had a story to tell, and a movie to make, that we shouldn’t let anything stop us. Instead, we should just fucking do it.
And that you did, Scott Schirmer. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
(As an aside, to all you kids out there, if a bully guy tries to look at your dick so he can tell everyone how small it is, it’s likely he’s the one who’s gay. I mean, why else would he try so hard to see your penis, really?)