I wasn’t planning on writing about Scott Schirmer’s Found. It’s been out for a while. It is a relatively unknown film. And, frankly, it’s not especially great. But, after watching it, I haven’t stopped thinking about it for the past few nights. What I keep coming back to are scenes or ideas in the film that have me curious. Was it a condemnation of horror films/culture? Was it a condemnation of racism? A blaming the (shitty) parents of murderers? Was it a metaphor for bigger issues? Or, was it simply a cumbersome vehicle for some intensely disturbing gore effects?
Found is told from the perspective (and even narrated by) Marty, a 12-year-old boy. In his snooping through his family’s personal effects, he learns some secrets. His dad has a shit-ton of porn magazines in a box in the garage. His mom keeps love letters from an old flame under her bed. And his older brother keeps an ever-changing selection of severed heads in a bowling bag in his closet. (you know, normal stuff…wait, what?) Marty doesn’t call the cops or tell an adult. Instead, he makes a habit of borrowing the dishwashing gloves from the kitchen and sneaking into his brother’s room to hold the heads. To contemplate life and its fragility. Marty’s having a hard time lately. He’s afraid of his serial killer brother, his dad is a racist, his mom doesn’t listen to him, he gets bullied at school, and his only friend is a big asshole to him. He is a sweet kid but is tempted to use his brother as leverage against the wrongs being done to him. Once that happens, it spirals out of control quickly and violently.
Found is a BLEAK film. But, whereas many bleak films take a nihilistic approach, this one stays firmly rooted in the morality of its narrator. This actually works to the film’s advantage quite well. Partly, because it’s most graphic and brutal on-screen kills are during a film-within-a-film that Marty is having trouble stomaching because of his knowledge of his brother’s secret life. (incurring the ridicule of his shitty sleepover companion/graphic (very graphic!) novel co-creator) To be clear, there is certainly a place for brutal, nihilistic films. Films like August Underground remind us of the evil that lurks just below the surface of polite society. The images upset us (even the most hardened horror fan) because we know that the characters are a little too believable. What Schirmer has done with Found is show us the nihilistic/sociopathic character through the eyes of someone who loves him despite his terrifying madness. This perspective actually increases the stakes by building sympathy where a nihilistic film would put us in the role of impartial (or disgusted/offended/etc.) observer. I specifically thought of the August Underground films because of the brutality and bleakness of the film (I even looked up whether Toe Tag did the effects or not). Though it is impressive, it still doesn’t quite reach greatness. The acting is pretty shitty in many scenes. The characters make questionable/illogical decisions. And so on. Does the film ultimately work? I’m not sure. I still don’t really know what the “moral” of the story is. But, it had me paradoxically rooting for Marty to maintain his sweet and quirky demeanor and to punch a 12-year-old bully in his fucking face. (and the gore set pieces were impressively repulsive as well)
THE FINAL CUT: Found features some brutal gore and violence, and it manages to be bleak without being nihilistic. Ultimately though, it is a flawed story with some amateurish acting and its ambiguity of message may annoy some viewers.