Malibu Horror Story (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Malibu Horror Story (2022) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on May 10th, 2022 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Thriller, Creature, Teen, Found Footage, Folk Horror, Dangerous Exploration, Paranormal Proof

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It's about a team of paranormal investigators who search a sacred Native American cave for clues in the unsolved disappearance of four local teens.

Malibu Horror Story was directed by Scott Slone and stars Tommy CramerDylan Sprayberry (The Row), Jacob HughesVeno MillerHector Gomez Jr. (Amityville in the Hood), and Valentina de Angelis (Bereavement).

Your soul. Its possession.

Malibu Horror Story (2022)

The Blair Witch Project was a game-changer for the horror genre. Released in 1999, the found footage movie terrified audiences with its simple but effective premise. The movie follows three student filmmakers who travel to the Black Hills of Maryland to shoot a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. Over the course of the film, the three students experience increasingly strange and frightening events. They become disoriented and lost in the woods, and strange noises and visions haunt them. The final scenes of the movie suggest that they have been trapped by the witch and will never be seen again.

The movie was revolutionary at the time for its found-footage style, which made it feel all the more real and terrifying. The film also cleverly left much of the scares to the imagination, which made it even more effective. It wasn't until later films like Paranormal Activity that found footage would become widely used in horror movies.

Over time, however, the found footage format has grown stale, with a long succession of horror movies attempting but never quite achieving the same level of success and acclaim that The Blair Witch Project did. Fans of the genre and newcomers alike both complain about the tropes, clichés, and unexplainable questions the format brings up. Questions like, "Why doesn't the main character just put the camera down and run away?" and "Who edits the footage together after it's been found?"

Thankfully, Writer and Director Scott Slone's Malibu Horror Story pushes past these limitations and delivers some refreshing innovation to the genre by hiding the found footage within a fake documentary that's part of a regular movie.

Four paranormal investigators embark on a journey to discover what happened to four missing teenagers in 2012. Director and host Josh, equipment tech Matt, researcher Ashley, and editor Jessica head to the teens' last known location in hopes of finding answers. They hope to use their findings in a documentary to land a series deal. Jessica presents her director with a preliminary cut of the documentary.

At this point in the story, it transitions into documentary footage, consisting of news clips, newspaper articles, and found footage of Malibu teen Jake Torrance and friends. This section reconstructs their activities and investigates the circumstances that led to their disappearance. Writer and Director Scott Slone balances the film's complex backstory by providing fascinating commentary on how the characters' rebellious behavior changed public perception. This keeps the viewer engaged when the dense worldbuilding becomes repetitive.

As far as scares go, Malibu Horror Story has some impressive creature designs, and Troy James and Douglas Tait play the parts of menacing entities well. Even when the jump scares are more predictable, seeing the creatures is still unsettling.

The use of paranormal investigators as the framework for this POV nesting doll avoids one of the more common found footage tropes by negating the need to explain the camera's presence. While this is a clever workaround, the downside to relegating these characters to bookending segments only means that we never really get to know them beyond their fleeting archetypical roles in the documentary. There's no reason to care about what happens to the characters, as exciting as the ending is, especially with the fantastic creature effects. The documentary point of view does, however, offer visual interest and a more polished conclusion.

Despite the originality of its structure and the variety of styles it employs, Malibu Horror Story is not entirely free from the conventions of found footage. Its characters sometimes make unrealistic decisions that strain credulity, and many of them are unsympathetic to audiences. The events of the 2012 teens are interesting to think about in terms of how the public perceives them. However, they are largely overshadowed by the rich history and mythology surrounding the land that the Torrance family is connected to.

Worth Watching? 

While not entirely successful, Slone's innovative structural approach, fast pacing, and creature work at least slightly pushes forward the evolution of found footage.

Malibu Horror Story Review (2022) Worth Watching? - ALL HORROR Tweet it

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