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Credit this spirited, uncommonly effective found-footage thriller for breaking the templates promised by its genre and title. Director Matty Beckerman forgoes the usual 90 minutes of portents and shadows, instead revealing the beasties about a half-hour in, and doesn’t even bother with the yanked-from-bed-by-flying-saucers routine, perhaps because we’re not yet so far gone as a culture that audiences would believe sleepwalkers documenting their adventures via video camera.
The setup is true-story hokum about foo lights in the mountains of North Carolina. “When them lights show up, bad shit gets to happenin’,” a helpful backwoods fellow explains to the suburban family whose weekend campout has become a scramble through black forests, creaking basements, and barns flooded with wonderfully creepy interstellar high beams.
Then, as it rains, that fellow gives an allegorical speech about fishing, just like Stellan Skarsgard in Nymphomaniac. Like all the actors, he looks like he’s in an indie band rather that whatever he’s supposed to be playing. But what matters is the inventive suspense, the way eerie static rips in and out of the soundtrack as the family cowers beneath sweeping searchlights, the way the characters and the picture galumph from one horror to the next, most suggested by light and shadow — and then, when you least expect it, by a flash of old-fashioned creature FX.
The last few minutes are grandly, convincingly alien, part experimental film and part GoPro base-jumping vid. Watch for whatever Beckerman tries next, although the film does score a demerit for explaining away the existence of this faked footage by simply saying the kid shooting the woods he should be sprinting through is autistic.