Who doesn’t love a good found-footage film? Remote settings far from society, shaky cameras operated by amateur filmmakers, and exploring abandoned property to find evidence of ghosts only to run into the ghost or monster in question. Found-footage style horror became popular, albeit controversial with films such as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal. Despite the subgenre’s controversy among both moviegoers and film critics, I think there is merit to the subgenre. Found-footage offers scares in a realistic setting with protagonists who serve as a vehicle for the audience. With horrifying experiences such as Infrared and The Flock, let’s see how Aaron Irons’ CHEST stacks up.
A group of amateur documentary filmmakers investigate a series of legends surrounding local urban legends in the Appalachian Mountains. During the filming of one of their episodes, they discover an urban legend revolving around a locked chest in a cave that was discovered by a few hunters. Through interviewing a series of the locals, including Jeff, an eccentric man who lives with his grandma whom the crew have a bad feeling about. Upon discovering the location of the mysterious chest, things begin to get out of hand.
CHEST shares many similarities with The Blair Witch Project. Like the latter, CHEST follows a group investigating an urban legend in rural America who slowly get on each other's nerves as the story progresses. Both films are slow builds, relying less on jump scares and more on intrigue and character building. The similarities between the two films help highlight the differences of the films in what they focus on. Whereas in The Blair Witch Project, the interview section was a short part of the runtime, in CHEST, the local population play a much more prominent role and take up much more of the runtime. Camping plays a part in both films but takes up much less time here. Finally, the ending of this film is a lot less vague compared to The Blair Witch Project.
One aspect that I’ve always stated about the failures of big studio found-footage films is the constant switching from a camcorder to a studio camera. While Chest doesn’t suffer in that area as say M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit does, it did have its moments where I was briefly taken out of the film by cutting to a medium to wide still shot. Despite this, the film’s suspense and buildup was more than enough to keep me engaged. Additionally, I really appreciated the film’s use of music. Horror films are stereotyped to have loud strings that heighten the feeling of suspense at the crescendo. However, CHEST utilizes a low, ominous ambient track that is played over very key scenes of dread and suspense, for example, when the bartender gave his interview about the murders in the Appalachians.
Probably the biggest problem I had with the film was the sudden disappearance of Jeff. He was not only the first person the group interviewed, but also their guide across the Appalachians. However, when the group got to the mountains, after a night full of drinking and discussing their religious beliefs, Jeff suddenly disappears and is never seen in the movie again. His sudden disappearance is never really explained and I wished we saw more of him, as he was easily the most entertaining character of the film.
Overall, while CHEST may not have the most memorable characters or performances, it still is a solid horror film. With a good amount of suspense and a solid payoff to all of the buildup, CHEST is certainly a well-made found-footage film. Taking influences from films such as The Blair Witch Project and making it their own, Chest is an enjoyable film that is worth a view.
Co-Written by: Owen Gonzalez