What lies just beyond the veil? Just what secrets can unearthed from the vast depths that is the unknown? These are questions we all ask sometimes ponder. But when do we ever find ourselves lost in a rabbit hole that we can’t dig ourselves out of? A case that we are so enthralled in only to find a sinister secret that stares right back at us. Director and writer Dillon Brown along with fellow director and writer Joshua Brucker explore this feeling in their double feature film, Split Screen.
Daniel Sanchez (played by Thomas Burke), a web hacker on the internet is sent two documentaries and he decides to show them off to his viewers. The first one follows Dillon Brown, who has compiled a set of recordings involving encounters with extraterrestrials including his own encounter. However, he seems to be watched by an unknown group working with the government who do not wish for the footage to be released and will do anything to stop him from releasing the footage. The second follows Rachel (played by Samantha Hupp) and Noah (played by Tayler Holler), two true crime YouTubers who are investigating a mysterious set of murders with no leads, no evidence, and no witnesses. Unexpectedly they are emailed some footage that could lead them to discovering more about the murders, if the source of the email can be trusted.
Split Screen is unlike any film I’ve reviewed thus far, as it’s not an anthology nor a traditional film. Rather, it is comprised of two slightly short movies (each is about 50 minutes long) that’s connected together by said YouTuber. The first entry, Greys: The Nevada Alien Incident, was written and directed by Dillon Brown. Brown, perhaps best known for his indie horror movies, approaches the film with a mockumentary sense, reminiscent to his film Tahoe Joe. Unlike Tahoe Joe, however, Greys: The Nevada Alien Incident has a much darker and more dramatic tone, almost akin to that of a crime thriller than a mockumentary. Throughout the feature, you feel as paranoid as Brown does as you witness him digging deeper and deeper into the government dark side to uncover secrets of the extraterrestrial. And things only worsen as the government begins to crack down on his discoveries. With every encounter with either the aliens or the government, you feel a sense of dread for Dillon’s safety.
I’d like to also mention that Greys: The Nevada Alien Incident does take place in the same universe as Tahoe Joe, which is recounted by Dillon as an experience with the supernatural. Meanwhile, his movie Ghost is also featured as his desktop wallpaper. Funnily enough, Tahoe Joe is also referenced in Ghost, meaning that the two universes must be tied together somehow. Either the Ghost verse exists within the Cryptid verse as a film series, or alternatively, the Cryptid verse exists as a film series in the Ghost verse. Am I thinking too hard on this? Probably.
On the downside, the alien costumes are very hit or miss: in some shots, they look entirely believable, while in others, they just look like people in costumes. My other criticism is the aliens themselves. Whenever they appear, there is a strong light and buzzing sound. This causes people to either pass out or die. Why is this the case? Ands why do some people die and not others? Or are they not dead? Nonetheless, Greys: The Nevada Alien Incident is a solid first entry that successfully sets the tone for the film.
The second entry, The Illinois Valley Murder Tapes, is much more realistic than the previous segment. Unlike the other segment, it’s far less of a crime thriller and more predictable in its ending. And while you might think this level of predictability makes the film less intriguing, that’s not the case here. The Illinois Valley Murder Tapes manages to be surprising and at some genuinely unexpected turns. It builds off a found footage style tone where the video footage itself truly feels like found footage, rather than a produced film. I have to say, I genuinely felt uncomfortable while watching The Illinois Valley Murder Tapes, because it feels like something a crazy killer could’ve actually made. From the static and film grain, along with the purposely poor cinematography along with the muffled audio, the segment almost reaches snuff film territory at times.
Compared to some of the other horror films by Horror Dadz Productions, Split Screen definitely feels closer to the scarier side, akin to that of The Flock. The film truly feels dreadful, claustrophobic and paranoia-inducing. With a gripping plotline, a dreadful atmosphere, and an eerily realistic found footage style, Split Screen perfectly combines traditional found footage with an old school double feature. Expecting a release around this Christmas on Amazon Prime Video, go give Split Screen a view. Just be careful if you see any FedEx vans parked suspiciously outside your home.
Co-Written By: Owen Gonzalez