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Film Review: Mockingbird (2014)

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Mockingbird-2014-movie-Bryan-Bertino-(2)SYNOPSIS:

A couple are given a camera and a set of instructions which they must follow or else someone will die.

REVIEW:

Upon finding a video camera on his doorstep, father and husband, Tom (Todd Stashwick) begins filming his family, under the impression that the camera is part of an entry to a competition that his wife signed up for. We are then introduced to a lonely college girl, (Alexandra Lydon) who has also found a similar camera, giving her something to do other than having late night conversations with her mother on the phone. The third and final camera is in the hands of a social misfit who lives with his mother (Barak Hardley), and is convinced he’ll win $10,000 from the competition.

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The ‘participants’ in this competition are all given the same basic instructions: don’t stop filming. It’s not like they have much choice, as the cameras don’t seem to turn off. Soon enough they start receiving more cryptic clues, while one of them is given a clown outfit and informed to carry out certain tasks. The game begins to take a turn for the sinister when they receive what appears to be a snuff tape, advising them not to call the police or stop recording. Just what do the perpetrators of this competition want? And what will the participants do to ensure their families remain safe?

‘Found footage’ has become a term of dismissal and derision for many horror fans, and audiences in general. What started out as a fresh way to present fear in the likes of The Blair Witch Project, Rec or Paranormal Activity quickly became the ‘me too’ genre-of-choice for many low budget filmmakers. There seems to be a new film releasing every few weeks at this stage that takes on the same ‘shaky cam’ format, most with little success. Is it completely dead as a sub genre? I think not, as there is still room for greatness to be done. Mockingbird, however, is not the film that is going to win over the naysayers.

Opening with the murder of a young boy, it seemed like a strong start. Unfortunately, the film falls into the same problems that plague most other entries in the sub genre nearly straight away, namely, why care about these people we can’t see, and why are they constantly filming? The first complaint is never addressed, in that we never get to know anything about the characters that we are presented with. They are given no depth at all, beyond being the ‘dad’ or the ‘lonely girl’. The one character we get to know the best is the man-child still living with his mother – his character is obnoxious, but at least he was interesting, and he gets one or two amusing scenes to himself that work within the context.

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The second problem is one that is addressed, but it doesn’t satisfy at all. By having these cameras that have been rigged to not turn off is a stretch, but it just opens up massive logic holes in the film that isn’t usually a problem when the lead characters are filming because they want to (in Blair Witch, for example). Here, they are filming against their will, but who keeps changing the batteries? This might seem like a minor issue, but as the film progresses and moves towards its final reveal, these minor niggles become huge, and will ultimately leave the viewer as angry and frustrated with what they’ve watched as I was. The climax feels insulting to the audience that has gone along for the ride, and is completely devoid of any meaning or merit. It just highlights all the issues you had throughout the viewing experience, and exposes the film for the poorly conceived idea it is.

Some of this would be forgivable if the film delivered on tension and scares, but it’s mostly devoid of those too, as well as logic. By having several characters intercut throughout, we are presented with scenarios that might be suspenseful, only to jump away suddenly to a different character being scared. These constant breaks and lack of focus derail any mounting suspense the film could have created, and to make it worse, we get other pauses in the action in the guise of title cards – usually signalling something is about to happen – instead of allowing the action to unfold organically.

Mockingbird-2014-movie-Bryan-Bertino-(1) Mockingbird-2014-movie-Bryan-Bertino-(7) Mockingbird-2014-movie-Bryan-Bertino-(8)Directed by Bryan Bertino, who made the well-received The Strangers, one can’t help but wonder what happened that lead to this being his follow-up project. Allegedly filmed two years ago and shelved, there seems like a very solid reason for it sneaking out now, unceremoniously – it’s just not very good.

13 comments

  1. Marilyn in Alaska

    I found your review by wording my search ” what is the meaning of the movie mockingbird?” Because after we watched it we were wondering what the heck was that all about? Why? Why pick those people to “do not stop filming” in the fist place. Showing those kids at the end of the film did not reveal anything to us. Did they just hate adults and clowns? Was a waste of time. The trailor made it seem like it was worth watching. Maybe just a scam to get back the money they put into making this junk. Of couse we would not recommend.

     
  2. john jefferson

    What did the ending mean??? Did those kids play a role in the murders???

     
    • At the beginning of the movie, through a window, the adult murderer is seen with his two daughters, or two girls–girls who showed up at the end of the movie, with the makeup and long hair. Mockingbird Drive was this adult murderers house or belonged to another of his victims. He worked at the mall where the pictures of the married couple’s kids were taken. The adult had plenty of money to throw around to indulge his hobby of murdering. He had neighborhood kids in to help him, the little boys who spoke in the last scene.

      Notice, and this is the kicker….the married couple’s two daughters were packed off with the married man’s brother for a trip or something, so they were out of harm’s way. Or, the murderer WAS the Uncle.

       
  3. I also was wondering about the ending, i thought the movie was entertaining enough, but when i saw the kids at the end i was thinking wtf?

     
  4. I just finished the movie… It entertained me to say the least but what was going in the end with those kids?! I’m completely baffled

     
  5. Sucked.. A waste of time. What sick mind would create such?
    If this was found (being created) in someone’s home on a laptop, the police would have serious doubts as to the persons motives or sense of reality. An asshole, period.

     
  6. I just watched the first 15 mins and stopped. I hate the constant shaky film.

     
  7. Honesty, almost nothing in this movie made sense. As entertaining as it could’ve been, this being his follow up work to an amazing film such as the strangers, I feel bad for everyone involved and the amount of money that went into this project.
    With that being said…

    Cellphones
    Camera Batteries
    How can 4 people all get kill shot, 2 unarmed, 1 unexperienced…
    Wtf is up with the random children?
    why these 4 people?
    How did a group of clearly 12-14 year old children afford a mansion with a house filled with clearly over 50k worth of balloons, caMera equipment, guns, and all the other nonsense..

    I hope you gave up making movies after this, cause I seriously hate you.

     
    • @whatsinthebox I always get accused to trying to analyze movies too much (like how I’ll give up five minutes into an action movie because I think something is completely stupid and impossible), and while I’ll admit that I do over analyze movies, but I’m glad I’m not the only one that was bothered by some of this nonsense. LOL.

       
  8. Waste of money. Do not watch. Actually started falling off to sleep

     
  9. There’s no way that a few kids set that whole thing up. The ending was completely insured.

     

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