1. SO GOOD. Elder child and I had been annoyed by the spate of ads for this one on Tumblr, and they really did not do the film justice at all. (This is not the first time I have avoided a movie I ended up really liking because the marketing department made poor choices. See also: the cover art for “Absentia”) The ads made it look like yet another found-footage horror movie clone, but it was much richer than that. (And I am inclined to enjoy found-footage horror.) This one has far better character motivations that your typical, “A bunch of college students wander off doing something stupid” set-ups. Also, really glad they gave the characters credit for being intelligent and well-prepared, bringing extra batteries, etc.
2. Scared me in a way I hadn’t been since [Rec]. When you watch a lot of horror (and have the advantage of the sense of remove “What am I gonna write about this on my little fledgeling horror blog?” lends you,) it gets harder to find movies that actually give you that visceral thrill of terror. Even though I am fairly good at giving in to the suspension of disbelief when I want to enjoy the “scary” part of a horror movie, this one did a fantastic job of not making me work at it. Elder child described it aptly as an “undercurrent of constant dread.”
3. The pacing was spot-on. Some movies try to do too much, too fast and you’re just left bored and exhausted, while others try to build suspense and then throw everything at you in the last twenty minutes. While sometimes those pacing choices can work, this one ramped up the tension and terror with a timing that kept me interested the entire film.
4. I loved all the biblical/mythological references. And let’s face it, as a Harry Potter nerd, yeah, it was sort of fun to see Nicholas Flemel brought up in a completely different context. Sometimes the biblical/mythological stuff does not work for me at all in horror movies, in this one it did. There wasn’t a forced sense of “ooooh! It’s a creature/force/something that’s so EVIL,” but real humans dealing with the difficulties,tragedies, and complexities that make up life.
5. I enjoyed the disruption of some of the stereotypical horror tropes. I love me some Final Girl tropey-ness, but it’s refreshing to see a film set the possibility of that up and go somewhere else instead.
6. Woman lead. Flawed but awesome and powerful woman lead. I really liked her, but she could be a bit frightening in the way she just sort of took off and did what she pleased. (Often in a way that ended up putting other people in danger with her.)
7. Thank you, thank you for not giving me hope and then swiping it away...Sometimes that’s effective, but good LORD it’s nice for it to actually work out once in a while. I got on a dystopian reading kick one summer, and the ending of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” nearly destroyed me. Sometimes we just want to believe in that tiny morsel of hope, no matter how minuscule it is.
8. Jump scares: effective, but not overused. I am a sucker for jump scares, even when I know they are coming. The youngest child has been known to refuse to sit next to me during horror movies, just because I jump so very much. But even then, I get tired when a movie relies on them too much, or telegraphs them for too long, playing “gotcha” at every turn before the payoff. On a related note: effective use of “seeing something that is there one second and then gone the next.” Also the “seeing something in the corner/behind a character that they are unaware of.” (I totally dig how that can send a shiver down my spine if done properly.)
9. Absolutely gorgeous locations. My research (read: a super quick Google search) reveals that they received permission to film in the actual Paris catacombs, and whatever hoops they had to jump through to secure that permission absolutely pays off.
10. Sound. Sound sound sound sound sound sound. It’s only in the past couple of years that I really started geeking out about the sound in horror movies, but it can be so very important. This one uses it well.
11. Emotionally affecting. I already mentioned that this one gave me that visceral “fear” reaction, but it was not a one-dimensional film. There is one scene earlier on where I desperately wanted to crawl into the movie and help a character out of a situation. It was scary, but it wasn’t “just” scary, because there was such a sense of everything the character was feeling.