There are some found-footage films out there today which could serve as hopeful signs that the genre isn’t slowly and painfully asphyxiating itself after all. Unfortunately, this is not that film.
At first blush, Unlisted Owner shows signs of promise. Some of the found-footage is reportedly corrupted, and has been reassembled by a team of police technicians – giving rise to a whole host of possibilities for the film to descend into artistic surrealism, sheer horror, or both. Unfortunately, the movie then does none of these things. Instead, what we get is a horror film that is punctuated by unnecessarily distracting camera glitches almost every five minutes, which substitutes tension for frat-boy ribbing and culminates in no real horror except the realisation that seventy-four minutes of your life have been completely wasted.
Unlisted Owner centres around a group of friends who, armed with cameras and plenty of immature high-school level banter, decide to break into a house in suburban Illinois infamous for the murders that took place within its walls. Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s the premise of pretty much every other found-footage horror movie out there today; one whose commonality in the market today is so prevalent that you’d think it would give Oren Peli sleepless nights about ever having brought the found-footage genre into the spotlight in the first place. Admittedly, the premise alone isn’t enough to immediately disqualify a found-footage horror movie from being any good, Unlisted Owner completely misses any opportunity it has to innovate, and over the course of its sparse runtime it manages to spiral from mediocrity into pure, mind-numbing boredom.
But really, does any of it even matter if all you want is for the credits to roll so you can be free of this movie once and for all?
Disappointingly enough, Unlisted Owner suffers from clunky setup – in the first few scenes alone, the previous occupants of the house state their emotions and positions in life without prompting, feeling more like an impromptu recital of the Ten Commandments than natural exposition. These initial characters don’t even last that long onscreen. All we see of them are vignettes that end in a bloodied arm being dragged offscreen – one of many other ham-fisted horror movie clichés that are rife throughout this film – shedding no real light on the house, the situation, or the lore behind the killer. We are just told, in the strongest manner possible, that People Get Killed Brutally In This House (!!!), and are expected to be interested by virtue of that fact alone. Unfortunately, this isn’t 2009 any more, horror movies have never worked that way, and it becomes painfully clear about ten minutes in that writer-director Jed Brian did not get the memo on either of these matters.
The characters in Unlisted Owner are also nearly indistinguishable – the men all speak in the same overly assertive, college-jock fashion, and the two women accompanying them on their fateful trip seem to be missing any kind of personality altogether. Neither do their interactions add anything to the film, or the suspense it should be building. For a solid thirty minutes, the film consists of nothing but arguments and scuffles that would have been better suited to a sitcom about high-school teenagers. When we do finally get to the slew of killings captured on camera, it’s almost a relief to be rid of the incessant jostling and jeering from overgrown boys in flannels and backwards caps. Sure, we still don’t know much about the killer, nor are we invested in any of the victims he polishes off over the course of the film. But really, does any of it even matter if all you want is for the credits to roll so you can be free of this movie once and for all?
Perhaps some of these blunders can be forgiven in light of Unlisted Owner being Jed Brian’s first film, but even then, it is a film nigh on unwatchable. In fact, if there is anything we should take from Unlisted Owner, it is that sometimes, the most horrific movies out there are not the ones with the most unspeakable acts in them, but the ones in which nothing much happens at all.
Image: Lawford County Productions