Found Footage Horror gets iPhone’d in Pablo Larcuen’s attempt at “paranormal activity” as two friends get more than they bargained for on a party-fuelled trip to Europe.
Marketed as a movie made solely with an iPhone, Hooked Up has a stench of gimmickry before you’ve even passed the opening credits. Had this not been a found footage horror film made with a phone you might have given the filmmakers credit for testing mobile technology’s strengths in the feature-film arena but it ends up being another means to record an unlikeable character’s torment before the expected downfall. That Hooked Up has some very good moments of satisfyingly good shaky-cam terror makes the overall sum of its parts more disappointing. That’s because when the film is bad, it’s really, really, bad.
In fact, its entire first twenty minutes is so tortuous for the viewer, by the time the characters are on the receiving end, you begin to find yourself siding with the villain or villains of the piece. For example, the open sequence introduces us to Tonio (Stephen Ohl) who has just split from the love of his life and has taken to the bathroom with a bout of nausea. This agonising sequence features a lingering shot of Tonio bent over the toilet throwing his guts up with a clear and focused view of the contents of his bowels.
It’s enough to bring the audience’s lunch up so it’s rather astonishing our point of view is filmed from friend Peter’s iPhone who appears undeterred by his friend’s sickness. Does he not have a sense of smell? Is this character bonding in the midst of projectile vomit a usual occurrence between this pair? I don’t buy it for a second. It’s an odd choice for director Pablo Larcuen who decides later in the film to move the camera away from an important reveal of one character’s “war wound” situated in what is often referred to as the “crown jewels”.
It’s a mark of the director’s inexperience which is somewhat forgiven thanks to his obvious ambition. However, endeavour is one thin; poor pacing, terrible characters and a lack of originality are another. Whether you can accept the use of mobile phones as a way to record a horrific, life-threatening event and buy into whatever means the storyteller finds to suggest the characters can’t telephone, text message or email their way out of their situation, my suspension of disbelief was deflated thanks to the artificial use of the camera itself.
Would you consistently use the phone’s light when trying to hide from a tormentor? In almost total darkness would you focus on your companion (like in the film) or turn the lens towards the vacant space behind you where your tormentor is likely to appear? Indeed, would you keep filming at all? It’s a question every found footage film has to ask itself – is the recorded video organic and believable for that environment? The best films in the genre – The Blair Witch Project, REC and Paranormal Activity, for example – achieve this, but Hooked Up has an overly choreographed aesthetic which dampens its impact. This isn’t surprising given that Hooked Up employed cinematographer Daniel Fernández Abelló to do all the camerawork, a stark contrast to The Blair Witch Project when the actors themselves filmed all the footage.
But the real infuriating aspect of Hooked Up is that it gets some things right, particularly in its middle section. It has a REC feel about it – that these characters have somehow become trapped in a large building with desolate corridors and endless rooms where the darkness becomes just as foreboding as the monster hiding in it. Unfortunately, the film’s best bits are few and far between, unable to make up for the fact our two protagonists are such unlikeable idiots, their predicament is less an exercise in atmospheric horror and more a slow depiction of them getting their just deserts.