When a small town near the Arizona-Mexico border is wiped out overnight, suspicion falls on the lone survivor. But a roll of photos the survivor took that night tells a different story.
At the beginning of the year 2017 I reviewed Hell House LLC, which I believed was one of the best found footage horrors ever made and I very much doubted that I would see another film that like that would blow me away that year…wrong was I!….
Similar in style, Savageland is a beast of a movie. A film that really sells its story to the audience, if they are willing to let it, because now that found footage has finally been exhausted, what we have in its place is a new genre called a faux documentary horror that for the moment, works perfectly in the films I have seen.
The above mentioned Hell House benefited from this style, so did 2014’s Delivery, while a film called Lake Mungo from 2007 has come to my attention over the last week, which apparently is the king of them all, a much hidden classic which needs to be watched by everyone.
Even if its half as good as Savageland then I will in for a treat, because this is a fantastic horror that really creeps under your skin and will stay with you long after the final credits. But before horror junkies rush off to buy or rent this, I have to say with caution, if you love your horror full of gore and endless chase scenes, then be warned. This is not that kind of film. There is no blood, no found footage, it doesn’t even bother with a ramped up climax where the terror hits the screen. Savageland makes sure it stays in its one level tone, only offering the viewer a bunch of talking heads, informing us what happened one night in Mexico. Sounds boring? but its like watching an ultimate Ghost Story being told.
Fans who loved Making A Murderer on Netflix will no doubt get what the makers are trying to achieve here and if you can just invest in the patience required then you will be rewarded as unlike most horrors these days, this actually does freak you out.
The story is centred on Francisco Salazar (Noe Montes) a man who was sentenced to death for murdering 56 people in a small Arizona border town of Sangre De Cristo. The original event is crazy enough to even fathom. All the deaths took place over one night, victims from the very young to the old. Even when Francisco was arrested, he did not deny it. Prefering to stay quiet and just accept his guilt.
Like many true true horror cases (and thankfully this is all fiction), more questions emerge even after Salazar is found guilty. How did he manage to kill all these people and why did no one fight back? Why do the teeth marks that are used for evidence, not his own and why are the authorties so determined to ignore the facts?
The film starts with his guilt, we watch news footage, the town Sheriff talks to the camera and then the experts begin to give their opinion. We then get a tour of the town until the documentary flips when its revealed that Salazar was carrying a camera that night and took photographs and when the reel of film is found, its here that the horror starts to unfold.
The real found footage is the tales that those photographs tell and trust me, some of those images will stay with you forever. Working from the order of each photograph was taken, we get what the experts think happened that night, even though the authorities believe its all false and the camera reel that was found is fake. You’ll be shaking your head in disbelief at the towns denial, because something evil happened that night and poor Salazar was stuck in the middle of it.
Every horror fan knows the main joke of Found Footage is why do they keep filming? Here its explained brilliantly and you totally believe why Salazar kept on taking photos when all around him was falling apart. Even in real life, there is always someone there capturing a moment in history and this time that man was Salazar.
I know I am being vague in what happened, but the joy of Savageland is going in, not knowing where this story is heading especailly as the more photos we see, the more horror we are greeted to. There was one particular photo that had me shaking my head in terror, I didn’t like, I thought it was too real and just for a moment I forgot that what I was watching was “not real” even though the authentic feel of Savageland must be admired.
I don’t think I have ever seen a film where the main scare for the audience is in the form of a black and white grainy photgraph and on paper I admit it shouldn’t work, but when it comes from the screen, you can not help but be sucked into the entire tale. What helps is that the actors on screen are all believable. You do forget on many occasions that this is all a work of fiction and it brings a smile to my face that one night in the near future, some poor person is going to stumble upon this and think its a DISCOVERY Channel documentary and be scarred for life.
I am not naive either at the political undertones that engulf the film as what we have is a town on the border and an illegal immigrant being arrested for a crime he did not commit, but I leave a better critic to go into that detail more as I don’t watch an horror for its politics but to be scared and thankfully Savageland accomplishes that.
Much like Hell House LLC, what stops me from giving this a huge five star rating is the need to “sell out” towards the climax as the last five minutes offers up a tacked on ending that belongs to a total different movie. Its unnecessary and for the first time the film badly loses its believable aspect. But that is just a minor complaint and thankfully it doesn’t spoil all the good work, simply because of what we have seen beforehand.
Sadly I believe this will be another brilliant film missed by the masses and I totally understand why it won’t be for everyone, but those who love a good story and want their chills will more than be rewarded. What Savagelandmanages to achieve is you don’t have to have a boogyman in a mask to thrill.
Its rare these days that a horror film demands patience, but thankfully the makers show confidence in their ability and believe in the story they are telling and what they deliver is a harrowing tale that is destined to be a cult classic, if you are willing to let it!
A must watch!