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Film Review: Raised by Wolves (2014)

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SYNOPSIS:

When a group of friends come across an abandoned house in the barren desert, what follows is a terrifying tale of evil possession causing the friends to slowly turn against each other.

REVIEW:

Raised by Wolves, another entry from the Butcher Brothers – who are neither butchers nor brothers – will feel oddly familiar to anyone who saw this year’s VHS: Viral.

In that patchwork quilt of shaky cam footage there was the tale of a loud, obnoxious group of skater kids duking it out with a cult of hooded freaky folk. Raised by Wolves, adopting the same found footage tropes, is the swift tale of a group of skater kids who, seeking an empty pool in which to skate and give the middle finger to society as is their want, run afoul of a malevolent spirt when they trespass on the abandoned desert compound of a cult leader. A cult leader who, like The Sacrament’s Jim Jones substitute antagonist, shares more than a few similarities with the recently married Charles Manson.

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Going under the name Ernest Plainsong, we’re told through news footage that during the 70s, he led and manipulated a group of young men and women to join him on his compound in the desert. There he brainwashed them into doing his bidding. Namely, killing people that he believed were demons. Soon, however, his disciples turned on one another. Each believing the other was a demon. Cut to a few decades later, his legacy is no less greater than the rumor he also had a super sweet pool that can be used as a makeshift skater park by any wayward teens who happen to stumble across is. And thus, ladies and gentlemen, the tale of Raised by Wolves begins.

Whilst not as bombastic as Viral’s entry, it does suffer from equally egregious, whiny kids. In fact that’s the biggest complaint you could have, these kids are really annoying. They whine, they scream, they use skater lingo which I thought had died after the first Tony Hawk’s game out. I gave up worrying about whether I was supposed to care about them and just got on with the job in hand of getting through the film. Learning about an excellent place to skate on Plainsong’s compound, they pack up for a road trip and it’s not long before they realize something might be amiss and they run afoul of something lurking in the bushes.

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Raised by Wolves isn’t a particularly bad example of the found footage genre. Muirhouse and Welcome to the Jungle immediately spring to mind if you want an example of tedium expressed through a video camera. However, nor is it a shining example of what can be done with the genre either. It takes you by the hand and guides you through a greatest hits package of what you’ve come to expect. Someone screams, ‘what the f*ck was that?’ Most of the violence happens off screen.

Any scary things we do actually see are just outside of our peripheral vision. The camera is always conveniently on. And wait, what’s that coming over the hill? It’s night vision. It’s almost comforting in its predictability. Like buying a Best of Queen album and being able to confidently say without looking at the playlist that Fat Bottomed Girls is on there.

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And yet, like a failing marriage, familiarity will only get you so far. Having pitched its tent early regarding how much we should really hate our helpless heroes, Raised by Wolves doesn’t offer anything fresh to shape this into a must see film that you could willingly thrust into the hands of an unsuspecting stranger. Though I admit, the fact it addresses that thorny issue regarding camera batteries in these kind of films was a nice touch.

And perhaps that’s what the film needed more of; humorous acknowledgment of the tropes that can often plague found footage films. I feel we’ve become desensitized to found footage now. We know what to expect and we’re becoming harder to impress. The fact of the matter is, we need people to up their game. Unfortunately, Raised by Wolves will not be the trailblazer that leads us into that brave new tomorrow. It’s not boring, just safe. Maybe a little too safe.

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