Why are there so many found footage movies out there, and why are most of them so awful? The answer to the first question is money; they’re cheap to make. Of course, the plot usually consists of four or five bad actors walking around the abandoned hospital/lunatic asylum/haunted house in Technicolor GoatGreen light, waiting for the evil spirits/demons/ghosts to kill them all. I’ve reviewed a number of movies like this in the past year, and most of them are bad. Grave Encounters is the exception to the rule, but much to my surprise Bad Ben – contradicting its own title – is pretty good also.
Made with security cameras and an iPhone, Bad Ben cost $300 to make (according to IMDB). Compared to most low budget found-footage, this is a masterpiece. The main character has agency and does more than wander around the abandoned house/hospital/mental institution for an hour and twenty minutes. There is actual suspense, thanks to a few jump scares.
Tom Riley buys a house cheap at a sheriff’s auction. His plan to resell it and make tons of money hits a speedbump when it turns out the house is haunted. Doors open and close, furniture moves around and a shadowy figure stalks the grounds. Using the security cameras installed in every room of the house, Tom tries and fails to catch the culprits in the act. Undeterred by the locked room in the basement, the satanic altar in the attic and the creepy kid’s drawings in the living room Tom soldiers on, deadpan, a middle-aged guy with a habit of filming himself in his boxer shorts.
Tom has a dilemma. As he tells us, he can’t leave because he’s sunk every penny into buying the house. So he tries to deal with the escalating craziness, with mixed results. Nothing works but luckily not much seems to phase Tom, who apparently has aspirations to be a vlogger. Why else record yourself? Tom – the only person to appear in Bad Ben – talks to the camera as if it’s another person (‘why are the lights off? I left them on.’) and generally underreacts when most people would run screaming for the door.
If you like found-footage movies, give Bad Ben a try. It’s better than 90% of the found footage movies out there, a number I just made up. Bad Ben’s success (???) spawned a prequel and a sequel, neither of which I’ve seen. Warning: if you want to see Bad Ben, don’t watch the trailer.