Trailer for The Lucifer Effect marries found footage with hyper-viral marketing
Cinema has had its fair share of found footage thrillers recently. While some have had some success on a semi-stale horror circuit (such as the almost genre-defining Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity series), others have failed massively (the embarrassing direct-to-video Amityville Haunting, among countless others). Refreshingly, this brand of ‘trust me it’s real’ filmmaking has started to wander from routine gore and edgy horror.
Catfish used the docu-mocku-maybe-notu-mentary format to shift the focus from supernatural chills to real-life discomfort by exploring our love/hate relationship with Facebook culture. Cloverfield had currents of terror running through it, but opted for a monster movie format instead of a by-the-numbers horror; Chronicle did the same with superheroes. Both backed up their shaky-cam veracity with impressive viral campaigns online.
Tim Burke's The Lucifer Effect (also referred to as The Harrowing) returns to the horror genre, but seems to have learned lessons from the non-horror contemporaries mentioned above. The film follows in the footsteps of Oliver Hirschbiegel's Das Experiment by re-enacting the 1971 Stanford prison experiment, a psychological exploration of the abuse of power. The experiment was inspired by Nazi concentration camp guards who blindly followed their orders, no matter how horrific; it had to be called off after the ‘guard’ participants became a tad overzealous in their quest to impose order on their ‘prisoner’ counterparts. Burke transfers the action to a disused asylum, with a cast of eight actors assembled to make a film. Of course, all does not go to plan.
Despite eye-rolling claims that the footage used is 'actually real', The Lucifer Effect does look more substantive than its contemporaries. Amid all the hyperbolic blabbering about ‘the curse’ of the film (several cast and crew members have allegedly come a cropper during and since production), there’s a sense that the film is mocking our viral attitude towards fear itself, as we watch it trend on YouTube and Facebook. The trailer shows youngsters gasping in fear on their webcams and participants grimacing as they receive semi-sadistic texts ‘congratulating’ them on being in the film. It’s interesting to see how fear has become virtualised. The Lucifer Effect asks if we can use online technology to overcome it, or at the very least, document it.
The Lucifer Effect debuts at the Cannes film festival, with a UK release date still to be confirmed.