I have a love/hate relationship with found footage movies. There are very few of them I actually like. The majority of them just seem implausible to me– when the crap has hit the proverbial fan and the world is being torn asunder by a giant monster, or whatever, the characters have to document the entire thing for posterity. They have to.
Or, maybe, the characters need to use the camera, or whatever recording device, as a light source– there’s always some reason. I, like many viewers, I suppose, always think that in situations such as these movies present, the recording device would be the least of my concerns.
Mortal Remains solves the problem of always filming by presenting itself as a documentary. In it, two modern filmmakers take it upon themselves to investigate the legend which has developed around a ’70’s auteur’s lost adaptation of an obscure novelist.
The grindhouse movie, “Mortal Remains”, was only shown once, and even then not in its entirety. The slasher classic incited its audiences to violence leaving some people dead and the rest crying for their mommies. Only snippets of the film are known to exist, such as a brief clip in the possession of The Blair Witch Project co-director, Eduardo Sánchez. Sánchez is one of many who show up in this faux documentary to discuss “Mortal Remains” and the enigmatic director, Karl Atticus.
Atticus is not remembered fondly by the people who worked with him; he fares somewhat better in the memories of childhood friends. His two films, “Mortal Remains” and “Culture Shock” were based on the works of Vernon Blake. Blake may have been a cultist, and the ciphers he wove into is books only fuel the speculation. Atticus, for all of his strange activities, may have been in the same secret cult as the author he admired.
Mark Ricche and Chris Stavrakis, real life filmmakers, make it their quest to solve the mysteries surrounding Karl Atticus and his work. The questions surrounding the director are tantalizing: Is Atticus really dead? Did he use dead bodies in his movies? Did the crazy director sacrifice his cast to dark forces?
The mysteries are so good, wrenches must be thrown into the gears. Interview subjects once willing to talk decide to shut up after receiving menacing phone calls. A cemetery official practically chases the documentarians off the property with a stick. Why are Mark and Chris being threatened and harassed for probing what are, essentially, urban legends? Could they have stumbled onto something deeper? It’s all fun and games until you get your assed stomped in a cemetery at night by someone wearing a hood and cloak.
Mortal Remains falls into my favorite category of film: Witching Hour Viewing. It’s a quiet, murky movie that feels good to watch at midnight out of the harsh judgment of daylight. You know it’s not real, but it has all the DIY charm of listening to a couple of your friends tell you a story in the wee hours while you light up another cigarette and pop the top on another beer.