The Fear Footage 3AM Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Written and directed by Ricky Umberger
2021, 70 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 19th, 2021
Ricky Umberger as Daniel
Dennis Frazier as Dennis “The Explorer” Rosen
Alex Ahmer as Alex
Once upon a time, an absolute sage by the name of Lemmy Kilmister famously said, “The chase is better than the catch”. Not only is it a sentiment that I agree wholeheartedly with, it’s also the tune that kept running through my head as I sat down with the third installment in the wonderfully low-budget series from writer-director Ricky Umberger that began with 2018’s The Fear Footage and continued in 2020 with The Fear Footage 2: Curse of the Tape.
The Fear Footage 3AM tells the story of Dennis Rosen through the titular found footage from his urban exploration channel. Dennis “The Explorer” Rosen (Dennis Frazier) sets out in search of Darkbluff, Maryland. Following the clues from The Fear Footage and The Fear Footage 2, Dennis finds a deserted town where everyone has simply disappeared as if they all got up and left in a hurry as one. It’s more than bizarre as is. Once he runs into Daniel (Ricky Umberger; The Fear Footage) and James from the original films, however, he quickly realizes that he’s become part of the story and all roads lead to Darkbluff.
In the case of The Fear Footage 3AM, Lemmy is proven right. The chase is better than the catch, but it’s by a damn slim margin. We’re talking paper thin here, folks. The mythology that’s been crafted around Darkbluff and those trapped inside is high concept done extremely low-tech, and that gives 3AM a highly satisfying finish that can either wrap up the series succinctly or open up new avenues. It’s smartly written and, like the rest of the series, is cleverly shot to allow the maximum bang for the buck.
True to form for the series, the style of a personally tailored haunted house experience fits like a glove in the Paranormal Activity structure. There is a drag in the middle where the pace suffers from a buildup that’s actually too patient (how many empty houses can we really check without a shock?), but the film reels itself back in soundly with a genuinely freaky first encounter. From there it’s all gas pedal and the Fear Footage universe has its boundaries tested and its physics defined more clearly. The bit with the door in the middle of the road? Goddamn, I enjoyed that with the heart of a child! It’s pure Looney Tunes with the darkness turned all the way down; it’s just damn good fun in a film that wouldn’t otherwise be described as fun. Dennis is told that, “You won’t find answers unless no one finds you!”, and that’s the moment when all the connected pieces click into place. It’s also a flat-out disturbing line.
Ricky Umberger gets it done using darkness as an ally in the same way that a shut-down corner in the NFL will use the sideline as an extra defender. He’s inventive on the spot and pretty gritty. So many ultra-low budget films are frankly hard to watch, yet Umberger has crafted a highly watchable series for the found-footage aficionado with only a few thousand bucks between all three films. He’s put his own spin on the idea of the closed-loop vortex of spiritual nastiness that’s also found in some other found footage films.
There are still no credits or promotional junk of any kind associated with the film, so the tradition continues there. It’s that kind of dedication to presentation that has been a hallmark of the genre since the days of William Castle and another sign that Umberger is a filmmaker to watch. Proving that less is often times more, The Fear Footage 3AM establishes a logical and intense conclusion for this pocket nightmare. The series certainly belongs in the discussion of underrated second generation found-footage horror films, none of which can boast this level of micro-budget.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways) that The Fear Footage 3AM is a film that requires you see its two predecessors to get the full effect. It’s also worth noting that it’s fully a found-footage horror movie from go – subject to tropes from shaky camera to logical inconsistencies – so if that’s not your bag, then Darkbluff may not hold many secrets for you. For the subgenre fans, though, it’s a real treat.
I think that Lemmy, were he still with us, would completely agree that while the chase is better than the catch, it’s also pretty fucking cool when the catch makes the chase even better.
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