Film

10 Intriguing Found Footage Fright Flicks

With its fourth place finish at the box office this weekend, $7 million-plus haul, and continuing buzz about its scary movie status (or lack thereof), Paranormal Activity has once again spiked renewed interest in the oddball combo category known as Found Footage/Mock Documentary horror. Used sporadically since the inception of post-modern era, this experiment in attempted authenticity has been rather hit or miss. For every proposed blockbuster, there are an equal number of mere busts. In fact, with the advances in technology, more independent filmmakers are trying their hand at such a stunt-oriented style. More times than not, it doesn't work (see the crappy Chronicles of an Exorcism for further proof).

In light of all the hype surrounding Oren Peli's limp haunted house saga, SE&L has decided to recommend 10 films it feels does a much better job with the cinematically sticky format. Not all of these movies succeed - in fact, more than a couple are just as underwhelming as Paranormal's dull demon attack. But when given over to proclamations and unnecessary superlatives, it's nice to get little added perspective on what you're celebrating. If the movies mentioned here are any indication, the current cause celeb will have a long way to go before it matches the menace generated by its commercial cousins. Let's begin with one of the original attempts at combining fact with fiction:

The War Game (1966)Perhaps one of the first films to every explore the "you are there" dynamic from a purely dramatic standpoint, this look at Britain pre and post nuclear annihilation would be the forerunner for later takes on the material, including NBC's shockingly superb 1983 entry Special Bulletin (a TV movie that actually fooled many watching at home). War even went on to win an Oscar for Best Documentary, highlighting it use of found footage to improve the authenticity of the storyline.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)Ruggero Deodato did such a great job recreating the flesh feasting crimes in this savage goona-goona satire on the media that he was actually detained by Italian police, accused of helming an actual snuff film. Of course, it was all faked, but this didn't stop urban legends and other conjecture from surrounding this sickening exercise in excess. While the bookend material is a tad hamfisted (it makes Network look subtle), there is no denying the impact of the supposed "real" depictions of death.

Man Bites Dog (1992)The first in a long line of serial killer spotlights, this Belgian black comedy finds a film crew following around Benoît Poelvoorde, a monstrous maniac who murders people at random. Over the course of his conversations with his 'witnesses', he draws them into his world of violence and mayhem. Many have criticized this film for its cold and callous approach. But there's no denying its impact on the next decade of first person POV productions.

The Last Broadcast (1998)One of the lingering controversies in this new subgenre is which came first - The Last Broadcast or The Blair Witch Project. There are similarities between both that are eerily prophetic and some have suggested that the Burkittsville filmmakers caught a festival screening of this similarly styled effort, the rest being multimillion dollar history. Whatever the final version of the truth, this criminally overlooked thriller features a group of public access cable adventurers meeting their fate in a fabled wood. The rest of the narrative tries to unravel the mystery surrounding their death, succeeding in sending shivers up one's spine in the process.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)As the most recent entry in the always tricky "scariest movie of all time" department, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez cinematic shell game was always meant to be a multimedia con. There was a no BS website, a lack of available talent for interviews, and early reviews suggesting that this was the first authentic example of a true found footage title ever. In the end, it was jus a really good ruse backed up with a slight, sloppy scary movie. The ending is still sensational. The rest of the movie has only grown more grating over time.

In the Dark (2004)Undoubtedly, few have heard of this low budget independent offering, a movie that features several inebriated teens entering a supposedly haunted asylum to test their terror tenacity. Using a first person POV perspective as well as severally slyly placed surveillance cameras, this was the rare film that took the gimmicky premise and played it for as much misdirection and menace as possible. Unlike a low tech take such as Paranormal Activity, this ghost story actually delivers the goods - over and over and over again.

Diary of the Dead (2007)George Romero jumped into the found footage fray after the less than enthusiastic response for his fourth installment in the Dead series (Land of the…). With a fan base still clamoring for more zombie goodness, he came up with a clever way of resetting the franchise, showing the initial living dead outbreak from a horror film crew's accidental perspective. Some felt the macabre master was showing his age (and desperation) with such an approach, yet the results remain undeniably unsettling.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) A real "love it or hate it" entry into the subgenre, many will never forgive filmmaker John Erick Dowdle for wasting a good idea with such piss-poor execution. Following police as they pour over nearly 800 video tapes shot by a sadistic serial killer seems like a crackerjack idea for a fright film. But budgetary restrictions and a lack of experience meant that most of the gore was kept offscreen. Add in some terrible acting and a similarly hyped theatrical ploy by MGM (they ended up pulling the release at the last minute) and this stands as a decent decision with only limited cinematic returns.

[REC] (2007)Along with the last film on this list, this superb Spanish thriller shows what can be done with the found footage idea. It takes an inspired set-up, a perfected follow through, and an attic filled with ghoulish geeks and turns them into a living nightmare of authentic horror movie maneuvers. This is the movie Paranormal Activity pretends to be, a rollicking rollercoaster ride where you never know what's around the next corner, where anyone can die at any time, and an ending that raises as many questions as it provides answer. Lucky for us [REC]2 comes out in a couple of months. Supposedly, it's just as good as the original.

Cloverfield (2008)Producer JJ Abrams pulled off one of the rare creative coups two years ago when he began a compelling viral ad campaign to celebrate his gonzo Godzilla update. With Mark Reeves behind the lens and enough shaky cam complaints to make the Blair Witch seem like a dose of Dramamine, this amazing monster movie proved that POV filmmaking didn't have to lack scope, intensity, or action. In fact, the best part about this movie was the flawless integration of oversized F/X into what was supposed to be a handheld camera capture.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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