Just mentioning the phrase “found footage” brings groans to many in the horror realm, especially the older generation of the genre however, the output seems for now a never-ending tidal wave of films, each with similar basis, well not the same, for first time director Frank S. Petrilli and his creation Play Hooky. Rather his production presents a relative simple and ingenious method of providing a new avenue, and likely a one-time venture, to refresh his entry into the genre and market, hidden POV (point of view), that allows the viewer to enjoy the slashing murdering joy of horror films which many long for once more to entertain.
The simple approach still holds true in the genre, avoiding the complexities allows the core audience that one’s film appeals to for mass consumption, and in this case teens. A group of them decides to skip school and expand the horizons of their mind by indulging in drugs, but in a location that won’t find themselves the center of attention and worse caught by others. Hence, set in the 1990s, and lack of cell phones, eliminates the no reception problems, often discovering in the found footage films, and this allows the film to skip through any significant plot holes. Now the perfect plan for a new path in this tiresome sub-genre comes from character Brad Walton (J. Wright Chester) ball cap with a hidden camera and the reasoning, film some personal satisfying encounters with his date, extremely believable. The characters equally effective especially the tag-along that every group has, in addition the couple argues all of the time, and at least one who is a typical tough acting loner, herein Claire, Meg, Rose and Lance have lasting encounters. A painstaking trip to find the ideal location comes at a price, sadly for the audience, the pacing a tad too long for most to enjoy, but the nature of the glorious teenagers brings the horror fans back to the center to enjoy their impending doom and gloom. The asylum contains the security guard DeWitt (Bob Waters) who chases off the teens for only a moment their determination leads to the downfall, and asylum rumored to have had a Nazi guard working here after war, a strange tidbit for teens to know about anything involving history. Petrilli’s teens accidentally lock themselves in the asylum and yet do not stop them from party a bit, all from the Brad’s camera. Megan (Becky Byers) freaks out that she senses the place holds evil, and her cousin, Claire (Theresa Davis) miss complaining annoying tagalong drives others slowly nuts. Needless, to state the story follows the slasher path and allows the gore to ensue to the pleasure of the viewers.
Each step forward in the character development, allows one to forget about the lack of action into the storyline, and hence shows the true bonding both the cast members and with the actors and their roles. One wonders if the director took a page from the greats of Palma’s and Coppola’s methods for character and actor bonding, in which the cast works very well together by having them hang-out alone away from the sets and get them familiar with the personalities and mannerism. Although, transversely the killer needed the time alone to exclude himself or herself from human contact isolating the desires of madness to portray his character to full potential, transcending the screen and scaring everyone. Overall the camera position in the hat provides the fly-on-the-wall aspect, becoming a sixth cast member, recalling my cinema history the POV use in Halloween (1978) and to recently on the television show Criminal Minds “The Big Wheel” in season four, and each time the creativity increases the dramatic scenes and providing great action and screams.
The film, had a very shot shooting schedule, and location rumored to have witchcraft and demonic haunting added volumes of atmosphere to the production, followed by the common sinister stories surrounding a location. All of these things added to a dedicated crew and cast creating a powerful new design and wrinkle into the found footage genre and providing a refreshing entertainment for the horror audience to rejoice in the conjuring of interesting conceptual design. Play Hooky, though a straight to VOD/DVD contains a tad bit of confusion overseas, since the term ‘hooky’ is not a universal term has the interesting and inviting box cover artwork for the core of the target viewers. One should take the time to view the first film from PollyGrind Presents and enjoy a fun flick of blood splattering filled with creative lines and talents, distributed by WildEye Releasing.