06th Jan2020

‘The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Jimmy Driscoll, Burt Grinstead, Maureen Keiller, David Nash, Matthew Pilieci, Anna Stromberg, Denise Walker | Written by Burt Grinstead, Anna Stromberg | Directed by Burt Grinstead

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I have always been fond of the found footage sub genre in horror. Like most people it all stems from the greatness of The Blair Witch Project and the hype surrounding it. Many movies have tried to replicate both the hype and the movie but very few have even got close – perhaps the Paranormal Activity franchise becoming the most successful.

But now, despite almost everyone having access to a camera in their pocket, found footage horror is in a bit of a lull. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of it about.

The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan takes the route of an amateur film-maker making a documentary about a murder case thirty years before. Not a normal murder though. A particularly gory and gruesome case, One that the police badly messed up on and one that there are a lot of myths and stories about in the local area.

We here some of these stories told in a handful of talking heads. The people interviewed come across really interesting and tell the tales expertly and in a natural way. But the movie isn’t full of interviews. Instead we get lead woman Leah (Anna Stromberg) ‘investigating’ and researching the case for her documentary. Stromberg is great in the role. She’s charismatic, funny, likeable and very natural in the role. You completely believe she is Leah – which is key to making a movie like this work. Alongside her is Burt Grinstead (who also directs) as Patrick Rooke, who, while not quite as great, is still very likeable and enjoyable in the role. There’s some real chemistry between the two which keeps the movie moving along nicely.

Unfortunately there are a few things that let down The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan. And these mostly occur in the final twenty minutes or so and the movies big conclusion. The issues are ones that many low budget found footage movies fall into – running about with a handheld camera and giving the viewer either motion sickness and/or making it near impossible to see anything that is happening on screen. And leaving the camera in one place in near pitch darkness so the viewer has to work out what is going on sound alone – sound which is generally just people shouting and screaming. It’s so disappointing that this movie ends up that way because it had avoided any found footage ‘traps’ for the previous hour. I understand why film-makers do this (partly because of budget and sometimes to give it a more realistic tone) but these are not good excuses anymore. Especially when we live in a world well we have devices (head cams, body cams, etc.) to help us see everything and sadly we also live in a world where people will film anything even when in the face of significant danger. The ‘who would stand there filming when a monster is attacking them’ excuse is not really valid in this day and age. The ‘monster’ here is a hatchet wielding woman who we see glimpses of and actually comes across as a creepy killer at least.

The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan has plenty of positives, if only for many of them to be hindered by the frustratingly predictive and average ending. But as first time directing movies go, I enjoyed this and it reminded me to go and check out more found footage movies again so that can’t be a bad thing.

*** 3/5

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