Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Todd Stashwick, Audrey Marie Anderson, Alexandra Lyndon & Barak Hardley
In 2008, Bryan Bertino scared the crap out of audiences with THE STRANGERS. That film was a simple, effective home-invasion chiller that was packed with tension and well-executed scares. It seemed to signal the arrival of a new talent in the horror genre, but Bryan Bertino didn’t direct/write another movie for four years. MOCKINGBIRD is Bertino’s sophomore effort and was originally intended for a theatrical release, but Blumhouse effectively shelved it for two years before dumping it onto digital platforms and home video. It’s easy to see why, because MOCKINGBIRD is a mess.
Set in 1995, the film follows three different cameras as they wind up into the hands of four individuals. Married couple Tom (Todd Stashwick) and Emmy (Audrey Marie Anderson) are gearing up for some child-free quiet time. College student Beth (Alexandra Lyndon) is settling down for the night. Momma’s boy loser Leonard (Barak Hardley) just wants something to do. When a camera pops up on the doorsteps of each of these individuals, they believe they’ve won a contest. However, more directions soon follow and it becomes clear that if they stop filming they will die. Two of the storylines are standard home invasion fare and the third storyline follows an annoying dork dressed up like a clown. It’s all boring, tedious, and unbelievably stupid.
I went into MOCKINGBIRD with some hopes. I liked THE STRANGERS. I enjoy when found footage movies surprise me and the premise of this film sounded interesting. Also, a handful of shelved horror films have proven to be stellar in the past. None of these things benefitted my viewing experience of MOCKINGBIRD though, because this film is garbage. Found footage horror films always require some sense of grounded believability to work and this is where MOCKINGBIRD frequently shoots itself in the foot. The acting is terrible from everyone involved. The worst performance easily comes from Barak Hardley as the over-the-top loser. He’s aggravating to watch and I was rooting for him to die from the minute he was introduced.
MOCKINBIRD’s problems don’t just end with the acting, because this film is also boring as hell. This is made even more astounding by the running time being only 81 minutes long. I may have passed through some parallel dimension while watching this movie because those minutes felt like hours. Next to nothing happens in the space of this movie except for: people screaming, people hiding, noises over a loudspeaker, flashing lights, and a jackass clown running around town. It’s a dull-as-dirt story that could have been fun if Bertino was able to harness an ounce of creativity.
MOCKINGBIRD frequently insults the viewer’s intelligence by giving us some of the dumbest characters to ever grace a found footage flick. There’s just nothing to any of these people, except for the momma’s boy clown and he’s borderline unwatchable. It’s constantly made clear that these three cameras have live transmitters on them and not one character tries to take advantage of that. The college student is such a moron that she even takes the camera into a closet where she’s hiding. Yeah, I’m sure whoever is messing with you will have no idea where you’re hiding now…especially because you’re broadcasting it to them.
This movie also uses a twist ending that’s beyond convoluted. The final minutes are ripped off from better films and simply don’t make a lick of sense in this story. It’s also worth mentioning that the conclusion takes place in a house full of red balloons, which means that these final moments are visually incoherent and 100% headache-inducing. I cannot fathom how anyone read this script and said, “Yeah, that conclusion is a great idea! Let’s go with that! It’ll blow audiences minds!” That probably didn’t happen and this shitty script is definitely a factor in why this film sat on a studio self for two years. Bertino is lucky that this piece of cinematic excrement even saw the light of day at all.
In looking back at the many terrible found footage horror films that I’ve seen in my life, I think MOCKINGBIRD just might be the worst found footage horror flick I’ve ever seen. At least, CROWSNEST had the good sense to take its bland events outside. For all its stupidity, AREA 407 had friggin’ dinosaurs. After it soiled most of its running time, AREA 51 used a few neat visuals. Even though it botched the overall execution, AS ABOVE, SO BELOW attempted to be ambitious. MOCKINGBIRD has nothing worth praising, absolutely no redeeming factors whatsoever. This film is everything wrong in handheld horror!