- Written By: Scott Schirmer
- Directed By: Scott Schirmer
- Starring: Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro
FOUND is the reason why horror film festivals exist. It is a pure independent film, which might not be for everyone, but I encourage anyone who is willing to experience something new and challenging in film to seek it out. Shot on a budget of about $8,000 with the rights to the book it’s based on bought for a dollar, FOUND is a worthy entry into the horror genre. One that both celebrates and analyzes it.
Marty (Gavin Brown) is a seemingly typical 5th grader from a middle class family. The film is told through his eyes and we gain all our knowledge of this world from a child facing bizarre social and familial truths. A fan of horror films, Marty spends most of his time being good and working on his graphic novel. What we learn right off the bat is that his older brother, Steve (Ethan Philbeck), is a monstrous serial killer who keeps the heads of his victims in a bowling ball bag, which Marty goes and checks on every few days.
The film follows Marty through his own coming of age of being an outsider and loving horror movies. For any fan of the genre, it is a totally identifiable period where your love goes from watching it at sleepovers to being ostracized for it. As Marty is bullied in school, he confides in Steve, who tells him not to worry about it which may be the most terrifying display of family love since Psycho. From there, the two brothers’ lives intersect in the most interesting, heartbreaking, and chilling ways. While FOUND may sound like a family drama, it definitely hold on to its horror roots with disturbing and horrific scenes throughout.
Director Scott Schirmer directs this complicated piece with ease and confidence. All shot on digital, the film is a wonder as it integrates so many different elements seamlessly to the point where you forget you’re watching an independent low-budget film. The shot composition and slow-burning tension that exist in all the scenes is a marvel and truly exciting to watch. Schirmer is a director who clearly loves the genre but never gets dragged down by it. The story of this child growing up through some of the most shocking circumstances is always at the center and is why this film works to the degree it does. Schirmer also pays homage to horror films of the 70s and 80s by featuring films within the film that influence the characters. It is a perfect way to extend the discussion of horror films beyond a character trait and integrate gore and destruction into the emotional core of the film.
The cast is solid overall, but the real stand outs are the the brothers. Fox is a natural who is at once both despondent and incredibly empathetic. He gives Marty a quiet emotional life which is perfect for a withdrawn character. His innate warmth helps guide the audience through uncharted territory. On the other hand, Philbeck goes eerily between kind older brother and complete psychopath with chilling ease. His performance verifies everything that Marty thinks and does and glues the movie together with a brilliant and terrifyingly grounded performance.
FOUND scares you in entirely new ways. Schirmer’s team understands that true horror will hit you on several levels at once. From emotional brutality to grotesque scenes of blood and guts, FOUND merges them together into a chilling portrait of the American Dream gone horribly, horribly wrong.
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