Boots On The Ground (2017). Starring Ian Virgo, Tom Ainsley and Sally Day. Directed by Louis Melville.
I’m not sure where I stand on found footage. I mean I fucking hate The Blair Witch Project. Jesus Christ is that movie boring as fuck. But I do love Creep. And Troll Hunter is quite simply the greatest found footage of all time. But love it or hate it, Blair Witch was kind of original at the time and seemed to spawn a whole genre. Some will argue that movies like Cannibal Holocaust and Manson Family Movies were the first found footage, hell I’ve even heard some people cite 1960’s Peeping Tom as a prototype Found Footage movie. Blah blah blah…nobody cares, bro. Like it or not, it’s The Blair Witch Project that is synonymous with Found Footage.
Every genre in horror has a problematic question that needs to be tackled as soon as possible. That’s why every modern slasher movie contains the immortal line, ‘I can’t get any cell reception!’ as soon as the opening credits stop rolling. With Found Footage it’s the question of, ‘Why the fuck is he holding a camera and continuing to film while attempting to climb a ladder to escape the zombie horde that is currently chewing on his girlfriend’s arm?’ It’s a question that 90% of found footage movies fail to address (I totally made that number up, but fuck it, I’m not watching a hundred found footage movies). But it’s the failure to answer that crucial question that has most people screaming, ‘Put the fucking camera down!’ and ‘Found footage fucking sucks bro!’ when watching these kinds of movies.
So it was with some trepidation that I settled down to watch Boots On The Ground, the 2017 found footage that follows a squad of five British soldiers who discover an abandoned building that houses a crate of cash and a malevolent force. A lot like 1983’s horror movie, The Keep. Except the soldiers in that were Nazis but hey, it’s close enough.
Well after finding the cash the soldiers start to turn on each other as paranoia about whether they can trust each other to divvy up the loot sets in at about the same time a mysterious, malevolent force starts to pick them off one by one.
To its credit, Boots On The Ground addresses the ‘Why The Fuck Are They Filming’ question by having helmet mounted GoPro cameras on each soldier. This also allows the audience to get different characters’ perspectives while maintaining the Found Footage credibility. Whether the military actually uses GoPro isn’t a concern of mine. Neither are the uniforms or the formation of the squad or the types of guns they were using. I just want to watch a movie. Like when you read a book review on Amazon and some self-proclaimed ex-military type asshole is complaining about the author’s use of the word ‘rounds’ when he should have used ‘bullets’. Those people are annoying as fuck.
Anyways, things go downhill fast in the movie and the use of total darkness, eerie sounds and intermittent flashlights creates some really tense scenes. There are a few jump scares but they don’t come when they normally would in a found-footage movie. However this can also work to the film’s detriment. The pitch black and lack of a soldier’s name on the camera display meant that quite often I had no fucking clue whose perspective I was watching. And it shifts around a lot. Also, with thirty minutes remaining I figured out the ‘twist’ but the film still managed to leave me feeling confused. The film never bothers to explain what the malevolent force is, why it’s in the building, who left the cash and why the thing that’s happening to the soldiers (Groundhog Day style) keeps on happening.
So yeah, difficult to go all out recommendation on this one. The soldiers were believable but you won’t get attached to them the way you did in Dog Soldiers and although I was entertained for the first hour or so, by the end Found Footage Fatigue was setting in. Combine that with the fact that I saw the twist coming ahead of time, (you will too), meant that the film just kind of ends as a wet fart rather than the huge pant-ripping explosion it needed to.
Steve Barnard lurks in the Stygian swamps of South America. He divides his time between scouring ancient jungles for the lost City of the Monkey Children and watching horror movies. Literally any horror movie he can get his hands on. Especially Japanese ones.