Have you ever seen a video on the internet that made you question its credibility? Were you ever close with someone who was negatively impacted by something they did on the world wide web? Do you have several cheesy Hawaiian shirts that you impossibly try to pull off a scarf in addition to?...
...If you answered yes to the first two: no shit. If you answered yes to the third, then you are definitely terrible at fashion and more than likely Steve (Paddy Kondracki) from Death of a Vlogger, which just played at the FrightFest Film Festival in Glasgow.
Writer/director and lead actor Graham Hughes’ Death of a Vlogger immediately starts with a bold - albeit subtle - statement: it’s more or less a found footage movie. Taking on a documentary-like style, we find ourselves introduced to Graham (yes, that Graham), who, as you can assume, is a vlogger. His first, possibly anachronistic, video is a simple message about one of his photographer friends, as they caught some mysterious distortions in some posted photos that ended up being “unexplainable”. Once the photographer took their website down, the unexplainable aspect simply went away (FORESHADOWING?!?!?!?).
This sets us up for the overall premise of the film: Graham is a vlogger whose material covers mostly silly things. He has more fans that trolls. He posts silly ‘challenges’ and attempts at tomfoolery that doesn’t hurt anyone. It also becomes very clear, very quickly, that this is all part of the greater documentary, including several one on one interviews, footage from other social media-heavy people, etc. Of course, this leads to the eventual posting of a post-eye surgery video from Graham that is the starting focus of the documentary.
Graham arrives back to his flat after having eye surgery, which requires him to keep bandages on both eyes for 24-hours. Due to being blind, his friend (and interview subject), Erin (Annabel Logan), helps him home and gets him settled in on his couch, then turning on a camera so Graham can make the most of the situation and document himself for his vlog. Then a very simple-yet-effective supernatural event occurs. Flashing forward, Graham and Erin contact Steve (hilariously played by Paddy Kondracki), a somewhat famous, Hawaiian shirt and scarf-wearing, ghost hunting douchebag, to intervene in this potential haunting.
Up to this point, on paper, it doesn’t sound like anything atypical for a found footage horror film. It checks all the boxes, gives in to the tropes, has jump scares, and on-screen text indicating the events “were real”. However, actually watching Death of a Vlogger makes it apparent how it stands out against most of the other films in this sub-genre.
There are so many things this film doesn’t do that we’re so used to seeing in found footage, I found it very refreshing. Some of the boxes this film doesn’t check include, but are not limited to:
-Camera glitches. There are none. It’s wonderful
-White from-the-editor text on a black background… It’s black on white, but still.
-Terrible, pre-HD film quality
-An unhealthy lack of belief the paranormal isn’t involved
Death of a Vlogger flows quite nicely, knowing what to do with the allotted screen time. It often brings fourth-wall breaking self-realization into play, allowing the audience to question horror films as a method of addressing societal norms; no, it’s not as incredibly done as Get Out, but it’s onto something. As aforementioned, there are many found footage tropes this actually avoids, and fresh ideas I don’t see often, one example being the flat rendering of a live 3D vlog of a seance conducted by Steve, Erin, and Graham. Paranormal explanations are solid, even with a substantial backstory, and avoid scenes built entirely around one single jump scare.
In summary, Death of a Vlogger is a fully-realized found footage entry, with enough fresh ideas and exclusion of stale practices to put it ahead of the rest of the bunch. Graham Hughes has a genuine approach and does a very good job of leaving an ambiguous ending as grounds for discussion from viewers opposed to frustration that the “true cause” was never explicitly named. This is worth a watch for found footage fans and opposers alike, with the writer/director being a name to look for down the road.
By Zach Gorecki