Sunday, August 31, 2014

Zachary Donohue's THE DEN: a movie that on-the-run video and found-footage were made for

If ever an idea and its execution -- via today's anyone-can-make-a-cheap-video philosophy -- resulted in the perfect marriage, it's THE DEN: a genuinely involving, horrendously creepy and all-too-believable horror film that profits hugely from its on-the-run look. So involving, in fact, is this little movie, directed and co-written (with Lauren Thompson) by newcomer Zachary Donohue, that yours truly forgot to take a single note during its unfurling and so must rely on his fading memory of the evening several months back when he and his spouse watched it.

Now available via Netflix streaming, the film should not be passed up by anyone interested in this genre nor by any young filmmakers looking to learn just what can be accomplished inexpensively and very well via sharp writing and editing, committed performances, and direction and pacing (by Mr. Donohue, shown at right) that is almost always on the mark. I cannot tell you how many movies of this ilk, beginning with the grossly over-rated Blair Witch Project, I've had to sit through, angry and bored, to finally discover one that works this well, while using all the usual stuff -- computers, cameras (hand-held, security and computer-embedded), the Internet, sex and slashing -- but using it with speed and smarts.

The basic plot has to do with a young woman named Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia, above and below), who wants to tackle -- as her graduate project, I believe -- a study of the habits of webcam chat users. Well, why not? We're in the modern age, and so we need to know what kind of world all this "Internet distancing" is producing.

Once Elizabeth gets the go-ahead, she either stumbles upon (or is set up to do this) a site called and then to a murder seen on video, and when she attempts to alert the authorities, the killer targets not just her but her lover and friends. Nasty.

Soon we realize that Elizabeth (along with her computer and her home) has been thoroughly compromised, and as the net tightens around her, the suspense and chills maximize.

In just 81 minutes (the same length of Blair Witch), the filmmaker keeps us glued with hardly a frame that is not used wisely and well.  By the finale, you'll have been put in mind of a number of other movies (especially, I think, Demonlover), yet The Den should prove memorable in its own right.

From IFC Films and available on DVD, the movie can also be streamed now via Netflix and elsewhere.

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