LandLocked (CFF) Unlocks Familial Sci-fi Horror
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Paul Owens
Writer: Paul Owens
Starring: Mason Owens, Paul Owens, Seth Owens, Jeffrey Owens
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
Mason (Mason Owens) returns to his childhood home after his father (Jeffrey Owens) passes away. Both his siblings Paul (Paul Owens) and Seth (Seth Owens) make quick visits to the house but otherwise leave it be. Unbeknownst to them, Mason has found a camcorder amongst the dust and broken-down furniture. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be much of a find until Mason decides to use it. Through the camera’s lens, he’s transported back to a summer where he was a kid, and his family is playing soccer. Mason realizes the gravity of his discovery. With this camera he can travel back in time to record and relive his childhood. His obsession with the past may cause him to end up just like his father.
Sentimental and whimsical, LandLocked captures the regret that comes with loss infused in a unique take on sci-fi horror.
Focusing on the recurring theme of getting lost in the past and nostalgia of youth, LandLocked gets astutely poignant in its mediations on adolescence. Mason stumbles upon the camcorder while going through the last of his family’s belongings and only after discovering its powers goes to shoot his entire childhood. At first, it’s innocent, trying to capture the moments that he cared most about and then it spirals into something dangerous.
When Mason gets lost in this project, he also finds himself getting lost in his childhood home and subjected to a danger beyond his comprehension. It makes sense why Mason wants to follow through on this project. He clearly misses his father, as he was absent from his death, and it doesn’t look like he has much to his name, since he came in on the bus armed with only a backpack.
What’s worse is that his brothers and dad are right there with him. They all cling on to something, content to spend their days living in the past and not enjoying their present. It soon becomes their ruination. It’s a nice touch to include old home videos of his actual childhood and connect them into the narrative is genius. Not only does this add authenticity to the tapes, but it must also feel cathartic in some sense to connect it back to a childhood home that is in its last legs.
Deliberate and ominous, LandLocked is full of smart choices to disguise its smaller budget. Scant dialogue and clever cinematography obscures Mason and his family members quite often, so there are minimal issues in performances here. Still, everyone gives a measured performance when onscreen, except for the real home videos, of course. The grainy quality of the home videos adds to the creepiness of the film while also making it more grounded in reality. These relics feel other worldly when compared to today’s technology, but there is something special about them. It feels homy in a sense.
There is little to critique in LandLocked. It’s a solid found footage film with some interesting things to say on grief and growing up. While there isn’t much wrong with it, it does feel constrained at times. There are many interesting ideas the film brings up but never explores fully. Equal parts writing and budgeting are likely the reasons why for the unresolved nature of the finale.
What makes LandLocked such a heartfelt and creepy sci-fi horror venture comes from its relatable framing of loss and longing. Losing family is hard enough but feeling like your entire childhood is gone with the change that comes with selling family property feels like another loss. Viewers can understand the grief of Mason and why he is so determined to recapture the good times while he has a chance. It also makes it scarier that the obstacles in place might be from his own obsession. Unexpectedly frightening and touching, LandLocked is a confident film with a refreshing take on found footage and family. When it becomes available, I hope you listen to your gut and press play.
Overall Score? 7/10