Found footage films. You either love them or you don’t. That may sound like a bit of an oversimplification, and there are some exceptions that rise above the genre, but watch enough found footage films (a new one seems to get released every couple of days) and you will eventually find yourself on one side of the argument or the other.
But what about an ‘in-the-making’ footage film, one that isn’t a record of things past as much as a recording of things as they happen? What would a film like that add to the debate?
If the film is For Jennifer, the answer is a lot.
Directed by Jody Barton, who also plays Doug in the movie, For Jennifer is the story of a small band of horror film fans who decide they have watched enough scary movies to make one of their own. Using their phones instead of cameras. Actually using a lot of phones and other DIY recording devices either handheld or placed around the apartment where the main characters live so that every moment of the creative process, as well as the intimate details of their personal lives, is made part of the ‘live’ footage.
The film they are making, as well as the film you are watching, is also a continuation of two other low budget horror movies, To Jennifer and 2 Jennifer, which are real films that you can watch at home. (Full disclosure, we have not.) According to the story in For Jenifer, the first film inspired the makers of 2 Jennifer to take their sequel to the next level and actually kill people. The murderer is now in prison and the storyline he left behind comes with a curse that more will die if a third Jennifer film is made. Following the intricacies of the three movies and how they interact and affect each other is one of the challenges of watching For Jennifer, but it’s not such a hurdle that you won’t understand or enjoy the film without a flow chart.
It’s a lot of fun to watch the main characters — Jennifer (Felissa Rose) and her best friend Stefanie (Lanett Tachel) go through the pre-production process, especially when it comes to casting for the movie. Hanging around and trying to be part of the filmmaking process, is Jennifer’s boyfriend, Joey (Rich Finley) an annoying jerk, but only in terms of the story; Finley just does a great job in the role. There are a couple of other cast members, but they don’t honestly add much to the story beyond waiting to be the next victim once the real killings begin. Dominique Swain, whose credits include playing the starring role in the 1997 version of Lolita, is on hand as the bitchy girlfriends of one of Joey’s friends and she is so good at it you wish she had more to do. At least her performance is so convincing that you can’t help but cheer a bit when she meets her end.
While it’s fun to roll along with the story up to a point, you can’t help but feel the script is painting itself into a corner as the movie Jennifer and Stafanie are planning starts to become more interesting than the movie you are watching. And then things start to fall into place in a really interesting way and For Jennifer spins out of control in the best sense of the phrase. The climax of the film is so well done, in fact, that any hesitation you may have had about the whole found footage aspect of the film will take a back seat to the visceral thrill ride in front of you. It may not be enough to change your mind about the whole found footage genre, but For Jennifer is good enough for anybody to add it to their exception list.
Tiffani Fest, Felissa Rose, and Dominique Swain star in director Jody Barton’s exceedingly clever FOR JENNIFER, available now On Demand from JB Films.
- John Black, For Jennifer