Mockingbird (2014) Dir. Brian Bertino
The Strangers scared the shit out of me. For a conventional psychological horror narrative, The Strangers really got under my skin at a time when I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of quality horror in the mainstream. And with the same unnerving qualities that this film has, Bertino continues to unsettle with the tiny nuances of stuff that shouldn’t be happening, all of a sudden popping up. And I was excited to see how he handled the now infamously reviled found footage format, which I think he delivered expertly.
Mockingbird starts off with three sets of people receiving a package containing a videocamera rigged to begin recording once the package is opened. From those moments after receipt, we see the trajectory that the three sets of people have set upon them by their mysterious benefactors. Most believe that they received the cameras as prizes for a contest they recently entered, so they go about messing around with the camera until they find the included instructions. Each set of instructions, sent to the group in some unsettlingly fun ways, moves each group closer to a tragic and ultimately satisfying collision.
The first group is a young family consisting of a husband and wife and their young daughter (aka The Family), the second is not really a group, it’s a single guy who lives at home with his mother and is an aspiring comic and actor (aka The Clown), and the last person is a single college student who is house-sitting for a friend in order to make some extra cash (aka The Woman). Once these people start recording and basically accept the terms of the “contest” which is to do exactly as told without question and they will be rewarded with a substantial sum of money. It’s rather amazing what the promise of fast cash will make people do.
Again, in the role of Found Footage Genre Defender, I proffer this movie as a fun and interesting way to not only have a functional framing device, but one that also has a ticking clock aspect to it. And while I don’t necessarily enjoy seeing children, or old people or women in jeopardy, as previously discussed, but this movie also has fun creating tension with the thought of harming children and loved ones. The mode of prescribing their missions is a throwback, or possibly an indication of time, as they are found on VHS format. Each video ratchets up the stakes for all involved, and some truly disturbing moments play out in pursuit of moving from participation to simple survival. And I don’t want to spoil in any way, but I personally dug the reveal of the tormentors, or possibly a better word is “architect” of the shit these people have to go through. It’s still on Netflix, which is where I saw it, so check it out if you have the time.