It’s found footage horror time again, which is something that gives even the most tolerant fan a sinking feeling these days – outside the zero-budget zombie film, no genre style has quite produced as much unbearable crap as this one. But Capture Kill Release thankfully manages to transcend the myriad problems of the format by presenting a story that couldn’t really be told in any other way, and by offering up an increasingly dark and disturbing story that will linger in your mind long after the film is over.
Jennifer Fraser and Farhang Ghajar (both using their own first names) are a married couple who seem thoroughly loved up, and when Jen brings home a new video camera, it seems that it will be used simply to film their life together and the occasional limp sex tape. But we immediately get a sense of the sinister when the couple film themselves shopping in a hardware store and discussing what they need to kidnap, murder and dispose of bodies. This is a serial killer couple, albeit one with differing levels of enthusiasm – Jen is the most determined, while Farhang seems happy to play along with the fantasy but more challenged about the reality of killing a stranger.
For the first 50 minutes of the film, it is all planning, and slowly moves from the humorous to the bleak, as it becomes obvious that this is not going to remain a fantasy (early in the film, they sit in a car discussing which groups are and are not suitable victims). Jen becomes fixated on a suited man that she’d had an altercation with, but eventually settles someone else as the first victim. This leads to a murder and body disposal that is amongst the most disturbing and realistic that you’ll ever see – a relentless study in just how hard it is to both kill someone and then get rid of them. As the murder becomes reality, Farhang – for whom this would seem to have been little more than fantasy, even as the planning reached the point of buying tools for both murder and the disposal of the body – freaks out and realises that he is in too deep with a genuinely psychotic woman – and things get increasingly more strained as things progress.
The psychological switches in the film, and the collapse of the relationship between the couple, are where this film works best. The Killer Couple idea is an overdone genre trope, but it’s more interesting to see characters changing as the crimes move from idle fantasy to reality – how the act of murder suddenly focuses the minds in different ways, and how someone can suddenly find themselves caught up in a situtaion that they are wholly responsible for, but probably thought would never acually happen. For Jen, the murder is an erotic experience tht she can’t wait to repeat; for Farhang, it’s a shocking slap of reality to the face, and something that he can never undo.
This film by Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart uses the found footage format smartly – it’s integral to the plot, as Jen becomes obsessed with filming, even as it starts to unravel both her relationship and her murderous ideals. The fact that, for once, the people filming are the killers rather than the victims gives the film a unique slant – and certainly more of a realistic excuse for why they’d keep filming during the horrific moments – if the whole premise of documenting your crimes seems a touch excessive, remember that enough real life murderers have done it for it not to be particularly implausible.
I’d say that this is the most effective and essential use of the format since The Blair Witch Project. This film, however, is less interested in building fear as it is in horrifying and distressing the viewer, and it does this very well. A genuine surprise, Capture Kill Release is an authentically horrible horror film, and highly recommended.