In the realm of found footage films, just about every subgenre of horror has been explored. I’ve seen FF films that contain everything from ghosts to aliens to monsters, and just about all things in between. To paraphrase a quote from the Bible, there’s nothing new under the sun. So when new found footage films come along, I always approach them with a sense of skepticism.
Such was the case with ALTAR, a recent offering from director Matt Sconce. ALTAR is a found footage film with a very familiar set up, however the praise it has gotten from the festival circuit forced a pique to my interest. Thus, I figured I would give it a shot.
I’m happy to report I’m glad I did.
ALTAR is not perfect and has some flaws, but it’s a fun trek into territory with which we are already acquainted. If you’re a fan of found footage films, you’ll definitely want to give this a look. The movie does not breathe new life into a saturated genre, but it’s as close to a breath of fresh air that we will probably get.
If you are not familiar with ALTAR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Movie Heroes Studios:
ALTAR is the terrifying story of a group of college classmates who get lost driving to a reunion campout in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something darker and must escape the evil they’ve unleashed. Not only are their lives in danger, but their immortal souls as well.
ALTAR is shot pretty well for an entry in the found footage category. Many FF films give the audience overly shaky camera angles that annoy more than convey a sense of urgency, particularly when the bearer of the camera is running from the killer/alien/monster. Not so here. Sconce seems to have taken distinct measures to ensure this does not happen. The result is a much more enjoyable film experience.
The acting in ALTAR is also above par for this type of film. Stefanie Estes does a great job as Maisy, and I love Tim Parrish’s portrayal of Asher, the typical jock/jerk. Jesse Parr also gives a fine performance as Bo, the main character; I had no problem feeling sorry for him throughout the film.
The special effects, although minimal, are very well done. Of particular note is the gore. While we don’t get a lot of it, what we do get looks great. I also like the lighting effects used around the altar when the group first discovers it. Very eerie.
My biggest complaint with ALTAR lies in the storyline. The first ¾ of the film are typical setup points: the characters are introduced, their relationships outlined, their personalities explored, etc. This is all fine. But the last quarter of the film, while tense and promising, offers no explanation as to what the altar is, why it is there, and who “she” is. Sure, I had some inclinations as to potential explanations, but I’m one of those pesky horror fans that needs clarification. I like where the film was headed…I just wish five more minutes had been added to explain.
Otherwise, ALTAR is a fine addition to the found footage film category. I recommend giving it a look, but be sure you have the right mindset going in; don’t expect groundbreaking originality or in-depth resolution. If you can look past that, you’re in for a good time.