31 Days of Horror: “To Jennifer” (2013)

 
Direction
5.0


 
Acting
5.0


 
Plot
5.0


 
Execution
6.0


 
Total Score
5.3


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Posted October 25, 2016 by

 
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James Cullen Bressack is a man on a mission. At just 24 years of age, his resume’ already includes dozens of writing, directing, acting, and production credits, and with a ton of projects currently in the post-production stage, he is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Not everything he’s done has been well-received, but it’s fair to say that he has found his voice in the crazy, cutthroat world of micro-budgeted independent horror flicks. “To Jennifer” (2013) was yet another opportunity for this budding talent to show what he could achieve with a few fresh ideas, and extremely limited resources. How limited? Well, the entire movie was shot and edited on an I-phone 5! Enough said.

The premise of the film is pretty simple; Joey (Pappas) is convinced that his long-distance girlfriend of two years has been cheating on him, but instead of just breaking up, he decides to travel to her home and catch her red-handed. He also wants to film the entire ordeal, partly to humiliate her, and partly to show her how much pain she is causing him. After recruiting his cousin Steven (Bressack) to handle the photography, the ill-fated adventure begins. Before long, the duo are joined by another mutual friend (Barton), at which point the road trip really kicks into high gear.

During this portion of the movie, we learn a little more about the characters, and are presented with some subtle (and not so subtle) clues regarding things yet to happen. However, the longer the excursion lasts, the more agitated Joey becomes, and after one too many misadventures, he slowly but surely begins to come undone. Eventually, they do manage to arrive at Jennifer’s house for the big confrontation, where the final 15 minutes of the film feels like an all-out sprint to the finish line.

At this point, a major disclaimer is in order; “To Jennifer” is a POV-style found footage feature, and if you tend to dislike films in this particular sub-genre, you’re probably not going to enjoy this one either. Having said that, I found the production quality to be surprisingly good here. In this case, the fact that the film was shot on a smartphone only adds to the realism, and is in no way a distraction. There are, however several areas where I do think the picture stumbled a bit.

The first of these has to do with the acting. Despite the obvious on-screen rapport the actors share, there are simply too many unconvincing moments, i.e, multiple instances of Joey screaming at the top of his lungs for unnaturally long periods of time, in an attempt to depict him as disturbed. Frankly, the scenes where he simply stares into the camera without saying anything at all are a lot more unsettling. My other point of contention is that the middle section of the movie drones on for far too long, and does nothing much in the way of building or maintaining the tension. Perhaps this is all meant to be disarming, but the potty-mouthed humor and nonstop references to drugs and sex grow old rather quickly. At various moments, the story just feels completely stalled.
This brings us to the ending, which is actually quite unnerving, and may in and of itself, be enough of a reason to give this movie a try. Even if you manage to predict how the events will ultimately unfold, the execution is so squarely on point that you will find yourself squirming in your seat regardless. Last but not least, and without giving too much away, something happens as the final credits are rolling that is at least as creepy as anything that occurs during the actual movie-be sure not to miss it!
More than anything, “To Jennifer” was a brave experiment by a talented young filmmaker, and I am more than a little curious to see what he might be capable of when given a decent-sized bankroll to work with. Despite a few rough spots, it can be tentatively recommended to those who are willing to give yet another low-budget found footage movie a go. Oh, and for those who end up genuinely embracing the film, be advised- there is a sequel coming out soon!

MikeD

 


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