Wild Eye Releasing recently started their own Tubi channel and they’re now offering their previous DVD and VOD titles as free-with-ads streams. Surfing through their digital library has turned into quite the enjoyable retro-ride—one that takes me back to my 5 videos-5 bucks-5-days days when, at those prices, you’d gamble on anything and everything stocked on those VHS sci-fi and horror shelves. And lately, Wild Eye has been importing some pretty impressive foreign horrors—such as our recently reviewed Australian and Italian neo-giallos Dark Sister and Evil River—as well as this French-made horror.
At first, since we’re dealing with a Euro-horror set piece that uses the admittedly overdone found footage narrative, I figured this micro-budgeted feature film debut from Fabien Delage would go back to the genre’s Ruggero Deodato roots and homage his found footage granddaddy, 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust. In that film, the footage is found and watched—and then a second crew goes out to find the people on the reels. And the story flips from a found footage to a traditional narrative. Rabid Bigfoots instead of cannibals, I assumed; a white inferno instead of a green one, if you will.
What we do get is, instead of an Italian homage, is an inversion of The Blair Witch Project meeting Neil Marshall’s The Descent (who recently gave us the very good Wales-shot supernatural-slasher Dark Signal) that’s seasoned with a soupcon Robert Rodriquez’s digitally-aged retro romp, Grindhouse. So, instead of witches, it’s Yetis (or werewolves or some type of hairy-humanoid) chasing our snowy campers.
As with the recently (very good) reviewed Case 347 that dealt with found footage extraterrestrials, this is another case of “you just roll with it,” as it is explained the footage we’re about to watch was shot by two journalists (Melissa and David; an interviewer and camera man) who traveled to the French-Swiss border in January 1976 with the intention of shooting a documentary for French television. Those recordings were discovered 40 years later, in December 2016—and we’re watching the digitized and edited version of that 8 mm footage. (The retro Super 8 logos and ‘70s-style Motion Picture Rating Code title cards that open the film are a nice touch.) So, along with a med-tech/guide, a British biologist, and an American forensicist, the journalists are off to investigate what’s causing a series of cattle mutilations—and it turns into a search and rescue mission when they learn the scientific team they intended to meet in the mountains has gone missing.
Does this all work? Yes. Better than most micro-found footage romps? Oh, yeah. And even better than most of the Hollywood ones.
Personally, I’m not a fan of A-List directors and major studios jumping into the found footage and smartphone frays to capitalize on genres developed by indie-filmmakers out of financial necessity to tell stories against limited resources. I wasn’t a fan of the major record labels pillaging the ‘80s indie-rock scene to find instant “Nirvana”—so if I’m going to do a found footage romp, I’m rollin’ the streaming dice on the likes of For Jennifer and micro-indies like Case 347—and this indie-feature film debut by Fabien Delage.
It’s been 21 years since The Blair Witch Project re-ignited the found footage genre sparked by Ruggero Deodato—and we’re about five or six dozen films neck deep in the genre. Cold Ground is one of the better ones and worthy of your streaming excavation. It’s an effective calling card that proves Delage is adept at working a limited budget, develops smart characters, and builds suspense and dread with his scripts. And most importantly: he discovers skilled, professional actors who are willing to work below the going rates to trek through the ice and snow to tell his stories against their limited budgets.
So here’s to hoping a major European studio takes notice and gives Fabien Delage the budget and resources he deserves for this next movie. So check him out, won’t you? You can stream Cold Ground for free on Tubi and you can learn more about the Wild Eye catalog at their official website and Facebook pages. And if you’re a found footage fan, well, B&S About Movies is your one-stop shop. Just visit our homepage and enter “found footage” in the search box and search our stuffed digital VHS shelves.
Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.