Found Footage films have always been a personal favorite sub-genre of mine. Not only does it allow innovation on a budget, but the idea of drastically searching with a camera for the next fright has always got filled me with excitement. With that said, the genre is far from perfect and for every good film put out, several end up being forgettable. Fear Footage 3AM, while working as a standalone experience, is the third film in a series that has seen moderate success. Enjoying the previous entries, I was excited to give this one a shot.
What Is It?
Dennis Rosen disappeared on September 19th, 2020, while filming an episode for his urban exploration channel. He was exploring Darkbluff, Maryland as a town that authorities discovered abandoned during their search for Dennis. They also discovered a camera and this footage was on that camera. (Official Source)
What Did I Like About The Film?
Warped realities and the idea of being stuck in a never ending maze of repeated rooms has always unnerved me, even before the idea of backrooms became a source of dread for many online explorers of creepy tales. The Fear Footage franchise has done a exemplary job of capturing this sense of dread throughout the series, and 3AM being no exception. The sense of dread and uncertainty of being trapped in a world that is chaotic and malicious – joyful in causing havoc on any who dare to enter- is easily my favorite aspect of the production.
Dark Bluff itself is reminiscent of Silent Hill, albeit a toned down version with only a few locations and monsters. However, the warping of landscape and sense of uncertainty feels like a nice homage to that particular brand of abstract horror.
As a big positive for people new to the franchise, the film works well as a stand alone, explaining past events just enough to catch viewers up to what they may have missed. There is some cross-over from the previous films but these flow naturally without needing to understand the lore.
Finally, it is hard not to love the low budget ingenuity that allows filmmakers to realize their vision on a shoestring budget. Yes the monsters are just people in masks acting creepy, but director Ricky Umberger thrives under these restrictions to give some wonderous scares and ‘gotcha’ moments.
What Didn’t I Like About The Film?
In the found footage format much of the acting is done through voice acting as the camera is seldom set on the protagonist or antagonists for long. Consequently, the importance to nail the intensity and realism of fear in vocal projection is key to building a strong sense of dread. Sadly, the acting fails to hit those high notes with the lead failing at bringing believability into the more tense moments (to give credit, I enjoyed his performance outside of these scenes). However, and as the biggest detriment, the monsters are exaggerated creepy voices that anyone could easily pull off. Imagine telling a kid some scary story and giving your best monster voice.
Ultimately, Fear Footage 3AM would have benefited greatly from audio distortion and varying pitches to help push the intimidating presence the otherworldly creatures try to convey. This alone subverts some of the tense moments into near parody.
Where Can I find it?
You can grab the Blu-ray off their official site here, or it is available to rent on Amazon.
While not as strong of an entry of the first two films, 3AM still is a step above most found footage outings. It is undeniable that Darkbluff is a haunting locations that offers up a cyclical hell for those those who dare to enter.
I am not sure if this is the last visit we will get to cursed town, but it has been a fun ride. Regardless, I would love to see continued success of Ricky Umberger as a filmmaker. He certainly understands what makes the genre exciting and fear inducing.
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