Movie Review: 'Godforsaken' is a Wild Ride of a Horror Movie
DIY found footage horror flick Godforsaken is one of the best horror movies of the year.
Godforsaken looks as if it was made on cellphone cameras on a budget of maybe two bucks. And yet, despite the low budget aesthetic, it’s as bracing and terrifying as any horror movie released in the last several years. This extremely DIY zombie movie crosses horror subgenres and aesthetics and through ingenuity and gusto manages to craft some of the most genuine scares that I have experienced since I became a cynical, seen-it-all before film critic.
Godforsaken begins in an absolutely awesome set piece. Chad (Chad Taylor), a wannabe filmmaker from a small town in Canada, has returned home for the funeral of a childhood friend. Despite attending a funeral for a relatively young woman, Chad is rather chipper and is using this opportunity to capture some verite images for a possible documentary project. It’s kind of a jerky thing to do, and most people seem to not want him doing it, but his choice pays off when he captures something completely unbelievable.
After ducking out of the funeral a little early, Chad is filming in his car when he starts to hear screams. Suddenly, people are rushing out of the church in pure terror. Confused and concerned, though not concerned enough to put down his camera, Chad goes back into the church. Inside he finds a group of people standing over the casket which has overturned. No, no one knocked over, it’s heavily implied that the corpse did that. Is the young woman dead? You will need to see Godforsaken to find out what’s really going on.
From here, the film skips ahead a few days. Chad has called a pair of friends and fellow filmmakers and invited them to town. Katie (Katie Fleming) and Dom (Domenic Derose) are joining Chad to produce a documentary on what happened at the funeral and the terrifying aftermath. Again, avoiding spoilers as much as possible, the corpse fell out of the casket, knocking the casket to the ground, and now the corpse is missing. The three filmmakers see a big break in getting this bizarre story on film.
Godforsaken was written and directed by Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal and the film recalls the best parts of The Blair Witch Project and the first Paranormal Activity movie. The DIY spirit of Godforsaken is charming and adds a sense of fun to what is otherwise a very tense experience. Godforsaken gets going and rarely slows down during the entirety of its 76 minute runtime. I can’t say this is how it happened, but it genuinely looks as if a filmmaker convinced an entire small town to help him make a movie and they all jumped in with both feet to help out.
The last act gets to be a little much, especially in the hammy, overacting of the three leads, but the movie as a whole is so good that I don’t mind those few moments when the artifice tips over into camp. The rest of Godforsaken is so good, so fun, so exciting, and so genuinely scary, in the best way, that a little bad acting can’t possibly ruin it. There is so much low budget ingenuity and talent on display in the direction and editing of Godforsaken that I found it irresistible.
I don’t get scared watching horror movies anymore. I’ve been a film critic for over 20 years and my cynical armor is often so strong that I can predict most jump scares and not miss a beat. Godforsaken was like an adrenaline rush for me because I haven’t been this legit scared since The Blair Witch Project back in 1999. The camera phone aesthetic and the super-clever set pieces of Godforsaken combined with the spirited, DIY production just got to me.
I can’t call Godforsaken an all time great movie or the work of a new auteur, but I can say it is wildly entertaining. Godforsaken is scary in that you watch it through your fingers, jump out of your seat kind of way. I honestly thought that I may never feel that way in a movie again simply because of my age. What a treat then to feel like a kid again watching a horror movie.
Godforsaken is one of my favorite movies of 2022. Godforsaken will premiere on the Terror Films Channel on March 25 followed by a worldwide digital release April 8.