Godforsaken (2022) is Found Footage Zombie Horror with a Twist
First Non-Festival Release: April 8, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal
Writer: Ali Akbar Akbar Kamal
Runtime: 76 Minutes
Starring: Chad Tailor, Mélie B. Rondeau, Domenic Derose
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The line between life and death is blurred in many ways. Humans have found themselves at these crossroads since the dawn of time. Survivors of brutal injuries and ailments have seen the light before getting pulled back to reality. What happens when this line gets crossed in more than one way?
Independent filmmakers Chad (Chad Tailor), Katie (Katie Fleming), and Dom (Domenic Derose) travel to Chad’s hometown to film a documentary about his recently deceased friend Lisa (Mélie B. Rondeau). What should be a simple expedition turns terrifying then strange when Lisa seems to come back to life, seemingly undeterred by her days spent without a pulse. Things escalate even further when the townsfolk believe Lisa has been blessed with the power to heal them of their maladies.
Godforsaken juggles interesting ideas and found footage tropes but fails to bring them together thanks to a middling script.
From the beginning, Godforsaken conditions viewers to expect a subversion of expectations with uneven results. There’s something incredibly bold about the way Godforsaken sets up the terror of its found footage story. After the crew gets to the funeral of Chad’s hometown friend, the events of a zombie apocalypse begin. While this seems incredibly standard for the genre, the way it pans out isn’t. This more demonic version of reanimation is much slower and more wrapped in mystery than a conventional zombie film. By not letting its zombified corpse begin spreading the infection in a traditional way, Godforsaken forces viewers to re-think how the story will be told.
Godforsaken twists the knife further by adding dimension to its antagonist, namely giving her the ability to heal. This added dynamic makes Lisa peculiar, captivating, and ominous all in one. Her mostly silent performance hinges on the reactions of those around her, mainly the ones of those she heals into better versions of themselves. While she is the source of the horror, Lisa isn’t as menacing as one might assume. In fact, her powers are the terrifying aspect to her character, not her body itself. She seems to take no relish in what she is doing. Merely a vessel for some all-powerful deity, the degree to which she displays true helplessness and submission is more terrifying than anything she can materially do to the protagonists.
Even though its story manages to keep viewers on the toes, its character work leaves much to be desired. Despite Lisa’s backstory getting a decent heft to it, the rest of the cast cannot say the same. Chad, Katie, and Dom hit all the cliches of typical bickering indie filmmaker teams to the point where their dramatics hamper the plot. The rest of the townspeople fall into similar local stereotypes that hold onto them until the horror really starts to take over the film.
Technically well made, this found footage film employs a variety of techniques to make its carnage realistic and exciting. Due to the nature of its unpredictable plot, Godforsaken leans into the fear by capitalizing on every opportunity there can be a scare. Paying homage to many a classic zombie and ghoul movie, Godforsaken combines the ferocity of fast running zombies with the foreboding sense of dread offered by possession horror all filmed with nerve shattering shaky cam footage. The arsenal of scares ebs and flows depending on the moment in time employed, but even in the film’s final act Godforsaken still manages to balance the more quiet and subdued chills with the bombastic frights.
Found footage offers plenty of opportunities for filmmakers to get creative, and the team behind Godforsaken manage to tweak the formula just enough to make something interesting. Once all the parts are put together, it doesn’t quite patch well but it provides plenty of anxiety for those who enjoy a good journey into firsthand narrative cinema that films like Godforsaken offer. Solid indie production values and a whole lot of spirit amp up Godforsaken to be an uneven thrill ride that can bring any horror fan’s view of the subgenre back to life.
Overall Score? 6/10