13th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘For Roger’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Michael Andruusiewicz, Jenna Gibilisco, Nicholas Paparo, Russell Ranere | Written by Aaron Bartuska, Gwyn Cutler, Derek Pinchot | Directed by Aaron Bartuska

I’m always willing to give any kind of found footage style movie a go. Ever since the brilliance of The Blair Witch Project, this type of movie (mainly in the horror genre) has fascinated me and in horror, when done right, can be the absolute scariest of movies.

So, For Roger is indeed a found footage movie in which we see Roger travel to his families cabin in the woods after hearing of his partner, Clara’s passing. The two of them use to spend holiday’s there and now he is there to be alone and reminisce by watching old video tapes that he recorded while they were together. But in doing this he discovers that someone had been watching the two of them for all of these years.

For Roger actually managed to get my attention in the opening couple of minutes even if I had no idea from that what the movie was going to be about. That beginning is almost eerily shot, it has a really distinctive score and shows the rain heavily pouring down over a Halloween-decorated house and then a car that drives away. It was simple but it had my attention.

This then becomes very much a slow burn of a movie, especially when it comes to anything horror-related because for along time in, at the very least, the first half of the movie, all we really see is a lonely gut, walking around a cabin, watching old home videos that he has shot and doing other mundane things. This might sound boring and some viewers will find it exactly that but there’s definitely something watchable for these first forty five minutes. You still have that intrigue of what might happen and we do get to see plenty of footage from the home videos which gives you some kind of back story.

In these videos we meet the girlfriend Clara played by Jenna Gibilisco in apparently her only ever film role. Performance-wise she puts in the best in the movie and the scenes with her and Roger (Michael Andruusiewicz) feel natural. The dialogue is good and it’s easy to believe this is just actual real-life footage of the couple. These type of movies need this but unfortunately in For Roger, the parts of the movie with the ‘killer’ feel very much acted. The fight scene in particular is almost disastrous in how it plays out. But this is thankfully the low point of the movie.

I briefly mentioned the score earlier but I think it’s worth mentioning again. It comes from another inexperienced member of the cast and crew, Will Dinola, and while not all of it works, plenty of it does. It largely sets up the atmosphere of each scene but never settling in one style. It’s clear the composer is trying different things, not wanting to stick to the usual or the current trend when it comes to horror scores. I liked the attempts at doing something a bit different.

I said that this is a slow burn of a movie and while it still is, unfortunately the pay-off just isn’t there, even if I didn’t exactly dislike the ending. It very much felt like this didn’t need the added horror part of the story, this does come across as tacked on to some twisted love story.

With many people involved so inexperienced, I think there’s some stuff to be impressed with in For Roger. That said, many viewers will feel unsatisfied as those end credits role.

For Roger screened at part of this years Grimmfest.

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