(TERROR FILMS/4:02 PRODUCTIONS (69 minutes; Unrated); 2021)
The “found footage” phenomenon in the cinematic universe turned out to be a clever new wrinkle, one that found more creative approaches than the average person might think. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT turned out to be one of the most purely profitable films in history, having been made on a shoestring budget by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, but then utilizing a compelling and unique promotional approach that drew audiences in droves. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY spawned a seemingly endless franchise, and there have been plenty of other movies that utilized the found footage thing successfully. Now we have THE ANDY BAKER TAPE, and while it hardly breaks new ground, it does show you can keep viewers interested in this kind of approach with a suspenseful setup and interesting actors. The film has both, with just two characters, Jeff Blake (Bret Lada, who also directs) and Andy Baker (Dustin Fontaine) holding your attention for a film that lasts little more than an hour. Blake is a culinary specialist hoping to finalize plans for his own show on the Food Network. He recruits his half brother, the titular Andy, to help him scout out some locations and hopefully interact with him in some scenes. This would seem to be a workable enough proposition, except that… Andy turns out to be kind of weird. He can’t seem to simply play to the camera for ordinary questions Jeff asks him, and he gets offended over nothing at all at times, keeping Jeff on edge. Lurking in the past for both men is the death of their father, whom Jeff says was killed in a horrible car accident. And both have the spectre of failure uppermost in their minds – Jeff because of the uncertainty of the offer for his own foodie show, and Andy because of a “deal” he was counting on that… falls through. Which has happened to him before.
We see these two guys checking out eateries in rural America, getting more and more impatient with each other (impatience is a wicked sort of behavioral thing in this movie), and battling at times for control of the big, mostly unseen camera. We’re told right at the beginning, just as with other movies in this genre, that their “footage” was put together from many hours that were “discovered” after the two disappeared. Eventually there are a few bad things that happen, mostly pointing at Andy as being… a bad and disturbed dude. I do count myself as a fan of unhinged behavior, and I don’t need every single thing explained to me. I DO hope for good, believable performances, and thankfully these two actors are quite convincing overall. Lada is a charismatic, dark-haired chap that is convincingly distraught when he discovers that his half-brother is not a trustworthy character. Fontaine is scruffier and harder to pin down in his behavior and motivations, but that’s the point. What do you do when you’re trying to achieve a career breakthrough and a relative seems like he could help at first, but then ends up threatening every single thing? “You can’t pick your family” is the tag line here, and boy is Jeff Blake sorry for THAT!
The quick running time, evocative empty landscapes, and most of all, the conviction in the lead performances make THE ANDY BAKER TAPE a more than worthy view. There really aren’t that many films out there that I’m aware of, that only focus on TWO guys interacting. Seeing ordinary behavior turn into something unsettling and then horrifying, is a more than relevant theme in these crazy times. So yeah, I appreciated this film quite a bit when I watched it in the middle of the night. And it’s without a doubt a worthy addition to the “found footage canon.”