Dir. Dovid Loew (2023)
Two independent filmmakers go looking for a rumored devil-worshipping cult in the Texas Hill Country.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
We're huge fans of indie horror films and we always seek to give them a fair shot on our site, largely due to the disrespect that is thrown around by folks who claim to only like "reputable" films. It's easy to lose sight of the skill necessary to make a film at all, as well as the bravery to show that film to other people. I dabbled a bit in filmmaking when I was a kid, and let me tell you that I never made a single thing that I'd want to show to an audience beyond myself. All filmmakers, regardless of budget or talent, deserve to have the chance to let someone appreciate their film. When I received a screener for Found Footage Horror Project: Devil Worship in the Texas Hill Country (hereafter referred to as FFHP:DWTHC because that's a fucking mouthful), I knew that I was in for an interesting film that very few eyes had seen before mine.
It's difficult to quantify the film because it's not really a film, per se. It's a collection of shots, admittedly very creepy ones, with only the faint whispers of a plot sprinkled throughout. FFHP:DWTHC essentially is a series of 8mm reels played over creepy music with a weirdly intonated narrator and creepy cult chants. Some of the scarier moments look like well-done Nine Inch Nails videos, albeit abbreviated and lacking connection with the other reels that surround them. Others are beautiful shots of random bits of scenery, from an old, dilapidated house in the woods to a gorgeous technicolor sunset. None of them are particularly relevant to trying to tell a narrative story, which does make the film suffer a bit on the watchability scale.
The start of the film stutters a bit, teasing what's to come by introducing the footage that was supposedly shot by the two filmmakers from the University of Texas. Once we do get to see the duo's film, it's basically just the aforementioned 8mm shorts surrounded by the same eerie music and dingy, witchy shots. The meat of the film serves almost as a demo reel for director Dovid Loew's ability to craft a nervy and hair-raising collection of experimental short films. There are some gnarly effects and some nightmarish imagery, and while the film never seeks to establish a real framework, it works frighteningly well for what it attempts to do.
This is Loew's first feature-length film. He's an award-winning short documentary filmmaker, and his first crack at horror is intriguing. It's not what I expected when I first turned it on. I was ready for an indie found footage film, a tired genre that is rarely done well and is even less often scary in the slightest. What I got was a genuinely disturbing and terrifying visual feast that made my skin crawl. It's not so much a movie as it is an experience, and while not all of it is done well, it's an experimental journey that feels like a less coherent (but also way less pretentious) Begotten.
The many creepy visuals, the bizarre and disorienting voiceover, and the overall lack of a narrative structure will make the film hard to watch for some. If you know what you're going to get going in, however, it's an incredibly effective highlight reel that feels like a cross between a death metal music video and the scraps of a documentary on the world's scariest cult. If you're a fan of Lynchian short films or macabre mashups, you're probably going to love this one.
Who this movie is for: Experimental horror lovers, Found footage horror devotees, Horror clip fans
Bottom line: While Dovid Loew's new film doesn't feel like almost anything you've seen before, that's certainly not a bad thing if you're a fan of dark visuals and creepy voiceovers. Don't go into this one expected to see a good movie, but if you just want to be creeped out for an hour and a half, it's a pretty damn good attempt. Some of the visuals made my skin crawl, and that's not an easy get. Loew's previous filmography is highly awarded, and if audiences are willing to look past their craving for a narrative structure, this one will be too.