Found

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Films like this don't come along very often."

As great openers go, "My brother keeps a human head in his closet," deadpanned by a 12-year-old, is up there. It suggests impending schlock, but Found is full of surprises. With a lead whose observational narration recalls the charm of Stand By Me, it also contains some of the most brutal and disturbing scenes you're likely to see this year. These disparate elements fit together remarkably well and both the script and direction maintain a difficult balancing act almost all the way through. Films like this don't come along very often.

Gavin Brown turns in a stunning d├ębut performance as Marty, an everyday suburban kid dealing with all the usual problems people have at that age and trying to take his discoveries about big brother Steve (Ethan Philbeck) in his stride. Talking to the police doesn't seem to occur to him, but this doesn't jar; after all, he's never dealt with the world on those terms. He is a fan of horror movies, and what was once an innocent pursuit now turns into a means of trying to understand Steve's motives. En route, he discovers a genre that is most definitely not for kids, and that many seasoned adult genre fans will find deeply unsettling: the S&Man cometh, or maybe something worse.

Copy picture

Is Steve's behaviour shaped by exposure to violent videos? Without ever preaching, Found exposes this for what it is: a comforting notion. The enormity of Steve's actions, so out of keeping with anything around him, point to something wholly other. His own rationale for his behaviour, indirectly blaming the failings of wider society, feels similarly inadequate (though tellingly pointed), but Philbeck himself is never unconvincing in the role. Contrasted with this is Marty's own coming of age and slide into the ordinary forms of moral compromise that characterise adult life. Steve's loving brotherly advice is sound, honest stuff in its way, and Marty's implementation of it points up the hypocrisy of the adults who supposedly have his best interests at heart. There's a different kind of sinisterness to this. No matter its positioning of Steve, this isn't a film that lets others off the hook.

At the core of the film is the relationship between the brothers, solid and believable throughout, where it's scary ("big brothers blame little brothers for everything") or supportive ("touch Marty again and I'll kill you!"). There's some very dark comedy here, especially when the film shifts gear towards the end, but it's the naturalism of it that makes it work and, that, by counterpointing the brutality, makes it far more effectively horrific.

Like many horror films, Found has its share of in-jokes and homages, but they're distinctly more erudite than usual. The influence of this cinematic legacy shows in some beautiful composition and neatly managed tonal shifts. Found is a perfect chameleon, slipping effortlessly between genres. It's a splendid calling card for all concerned.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2014
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Found packshot
A teenager's love of horror films abruptly fades when he finds a human head in his older brother's closet.

Director: Scott Schirmer

Writer: Scott Schirmer, based on the book by Todd Rigney

Starring: Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro, Louie Lawless, Alex Kogin, Andy Alphonse

Year: 2012

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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