There is an adage which states that those who cannot do teach. In modern filmmaking, the corrolary has become that those who cannot do make found footage films, but while many teachers are not only skilled in their specialties and adept at communicating their expertise to others, the majority of found footage is demonstrably a barren cul-de-sac devoid of creativity.
What once might have been a passing fad in cinema styles has become almost a rite of passage many directors feel they must pass through, attracted by the simplicity of the production needs with minimal budget and the barest of equipment, wilfully choosing to ignore the hurdle that stripped down to nothing more than a camera, a premise and performance it is in fact possibly the hardest genre in which to achieve artistic success.
Inspired by what is termed “the Rendlesham Forest incident” of December 1980 where lights were spotted over that Suffolk woodland, described as “the British Roswell,” this purports to be the recovered footage of three amateur treasure hunters who thirty three years later ventured into the forest with metal detectors hoping to find a rumoured Saxon burial ground.
Directed by Daniel Simpson from a script co-written with Adam Preston, like most found footage films The Rendlesham Forest Incident (released as Hangar 10 internationally) is an endurance test against boredom. Gus (Robert Curtis), his girlfriend Sally (Abbie Salt) and cameraman Jake (Danny Shayler) are at least not the obnoxious teenagers of most films of this ilk, but nor are they interesting, strangers with no personality or depth wandering aimlessly through the woods.
Mirroring the setup of The Blair Witch Project, the two men and one woman find their maps are useless, their compasses misleading them, and they set to bickering amongst themselves as they become more and more lost. Mysterious lights are seen at night, and the next morning as they return to where their car should be they find it is missing.
When the lights are seen more clearly the following day, moving swiftly through the clouds in orchestrated patterns and formations, they argue some more – is it alien technology or are the experimental military drones, and more importantly, does anybody care? With no attempt made to build a connection to the three bickering witnesses or develop a story out of their nocturnal shambling it is almost as though Simpson wants to punish his audience.
Every cliché of the genre is deployed without attempt to twist them into an original shape; the requisite rivalry among the men set up by the revelation that Sally kissed Jake when drunk, the camera shaken with such abandon it seems the operator was suffering a fit and counter productive behaviour is the order of the day; witnessing the crash of an out of control helicopter, rather than staying by the wreckage to await the emergency services and thus be rescued themselves, the trio wander off into the forest again, cold and hungry.
Staggering to a halt rather than a conclusion with the utmost indifference to narrative requirements, logic or sense, it is nothing less than a relief when it is over, though the perplexing thought lingers why anyone imagined it would be a good idea in the first place. An actual walk in the woods would be much more beneficial to mind and body for anyone considering wasting their time watching this.
The Rendlesham UFO Incident is now available on DVD