Embedded (2012)

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*. I’ve written before about the way convention very quickly turns into parody. Embedded is a conventional shaky-cam or found-footage horror film, quite recognizably in the Blair Witch Project mold. Instead of a witch, the filmmakers are pursuing a forest creature in the woods of Montana (actually British Columbia, with Revelstoke standing in as the town).
*. The set-up involves a television news team (cameraman and reporter) interviewing various locals about all the disappearances and people gettin’ “ripped apart somethin’ awful.” Could it be a pack of wolves? A grizzly? Or somethin’ else?

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*. Is this parody? Jason Simpson plays a farmer who seems almost deranged, but then he overplays his part throughout. My favourite scene in the whole film, of a dog being tossed out of the bushes like it’s being shot from a cannon, is very funny.
*. And the sasquatch creature? Are we meant to take him seriously? A man in an ape suit might have been scarier. Apparently director Micheal (that’s how he spells it) Bafaro’s aim was for a combination gorilla-lion-man and he thought it ended up looking pretty cool. I’m not so sure I agree. Does it even have any teeth in its gaping mouth? Whatever you do, don’t pause the playback when he appears. You don’t want to get a good look at him.
*. I’m not sure how the creature manages to get the jump on everyone, even in broad daylight without a lot of trees around. It seems like it would be pretty easy to get a shot at. People keep talking about how fast it is, but it’s not supernaturally fast. And how does it manage to move around the woods so quickly without making any noise? That’s impossible.
*. A note on the DVD commentary: it’s well enough done — featuring writer-director Bafaro and Don Knodel, who plays James Parnell — but you can hardly hear it because the audio level is the same as the soundtrack. Somebody messed this up.
*. You knew the missing kid was going to show up at some point, didn’t you? That’s another convention.

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*. A lot of it isn’t very good. Certain passages are now inevitable, like the use of night vision. The script is overwritten and too dramatic (the sheriff’s campfire speech, for example). In movies like this, more improvisation is usually better. The acting is pretty bad. The monster is a joke. The camera keeps breaking down for no dramatic purpose I can see. It was shot in a park and looks it, meaning that you never feel like anyone is more than a five-minute walk from a main road. Indeed at one point near the end, when the few survivors are supposedly lost, they’re clearly walking down a road. Why didn’t they just keep on it?
*. And yet it’s a fun movie if you keep your expectations in check.
*. If there’s an interesting angle to it, it’s in the fact that the reporters have a background in war reporting (Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia) and that several of the hunters have been in the military. Of course the title had a specific meaning in 2012. So is the story here an allegory of American military misadventures? At the end there will be an attempt at an evacuation by helicopter, reminiscent of various Vietnam movies and newsreels. Things don’t go so well. It’s hard not to also think of Rituals and its demented vet on the rampage.
*. Does it all go back to cowboys (or colonists) and Indians? A jungle that swallows armies whole? The green zone in Baghdad was an urban safe space, not a wilderness. Being embedded meant being protected, not eaten alive. I don’t think Embedded is consciously making a satirical point about this; it’s just not that subtle a movie. But it still gives us something to think about.

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