Media was going nuts over the leaked footage of a teenager dying. The story went viral and a legendary filmmaker showed interest in buying the rights to the story. But then it all disappeared. This is the first time after the media outrage that the truth behind the death of a young woman is revealed. This footage documents her final hours as she follows a group of friends home.
As a sucker for good found footage movies, despite there being few, I have been curious about "The Upper Footage" because of its elaborate idea. Much like "The Blair Witch Project", its filmmakers intended to create controversy around the marketing by making its story appear to be 100% truth by leaking footage and news stories prior to releasing the film. It was essentially a brilliant idea that I personally never saw much of. I spend a lot of time online but I don't think I ever saw any of that, but it does appear that some smaller sites (maybe started for the movie?) covered it, and some people discussed it at the time. But personally, I had no experience with it and knew of "The Upper Footage" as fiction from the moment I heard about it. Though it was not wasted, as the mockumentary opens with the media story - showing screenshots from websites, while discribing the events that took place in text.
"The Upper Footage" depicts the last night in the life of a teenager. It starts with a group of friends partying, taking a limo through the city night, drinking alcohol and doing drugs. There's tension brewing amongst them, but not in an overly violent way - just the way that friends might bug each other. But when another girl joins their party in the limo and follows them back to the apartment, things are starting to go sour. The guy who brought her with him doesn't manage to get her in bed, and the other two guys just wants him to leave. As the night progresses, the teenager is found dead in her own vomit. The friends panic as they have to decide what to do - should they call the cops? You might understand what happens next. It is a movie, after all.
The movie does a lot of things right, but still it's pretty flawed. For a found footage film to make sense there needs to be a lot of boring parts, things shouldn't be too spectacular (life rarely is), and the actors have to be sharp but real. The idea here is that nearly 400 minutes had been shot, but edited down to 87 minutes to show the important parts of the story. This makes sense, but after many years of watching found footage movies you start to nitpick. You notice things that filmmakers rarely can get right. One of these things include the character's reasons for continuing filming the events. Just because the characters decide that they need to film the rest of the night I guess so they can't tell on each other, doesn't make it a good reason. It's still unbelievably dumb. And this is an issue that pops up in most found footage movies, and it only makes somewhat sense (in a filmic universe) if the character is either the bad guy, or completely obsessed with filming. In that case it would make sense on a psychological level, as it would probably calm the person. Is that realistic? Probably not, but in a movie it works. What they did in "The Upper Footage" felt forced.
There's also several moments where you have to question if there wasn't any other footage to show? If they really had 400 minutes of footage (theoretically), then why did they show some scenes where literally nothing happened? Again, I enjoy it when found footage movies do that, because it's realistic, but if it's supposed to be edited footage... I don't know if it makes that much sense anymore. There's also a moment in the movie where they cut away from a sex scene, as it would be disrespectful to show that. Well, that makes a ton of sense to me, but why didn't they cut before she revealed her breasts then?
No, I don't think that "The Upper Footage" is the best that it could have been. Several small things like that bugged me and ultimately dampered my excitement and involvement in the unfolding story. But the movie is still far ahead of the majority of titles in the genre. It did the marketing right (whether it was large enough or not), and it stayed away from the most spectacular of events to keep a realistic tone. I think that the panic of one of the girls in the movie, who continued to be in a state of shock for the rest of the movie, helped sell the realism. And in the end, it was interesting to see a movie that showed something that could very well have happened.
The actors were mostly great. Even when you could tell that they were acting they kept their act together enough to be plausible. The dialogue is fluent but interrupted as it would be within a real group of friends. There's a lot going on around the camera - behind and in front of. The camera is of so-so quality, the auto-focus makes many scenes blurry but to me that's a big positive.
I'm very split on "The Upper Footage". It is successful in that it wanted to have people question if it was real or not, which apparently has happened. But if you've seen enough within the genre then you're probably not fooled. You might be impressed that it holds back and unfolds in a realistic way, but the majority will still be able to tell that it's fiction. Most of "The Upper Footage" is quite alright, it had me curious and the opening sequence showing all the media coverage was definitely a nice touch. It was just hard for me to overlook a few reoccuring issues and I wasn't too happy with how the movie ended. It wasn't the uncomfortable experience that I had hoped it would be. But it's recommended viewing for found footage aficionados and those curious about the concept.