J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Brooklyn Horror ’17: 1974

In the 1970s, consumer 8mm was largely for A-V geeks. Most of them were not aspiring indie filmmakers. Instead, they used the format to document milestones, like weddings, graduations, and demonic possessions. Manuel (a man-child toy-maker) wants to capture his early days in a new house with his newlywed wife Altair, but he records some disturbing events when she falls under the influence of a mysterious force. She claims to be communing with angels, but that seems highly unlikely throughout Victor Dryere’s Mexican found footage 1974 (trailer here), which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Dryere really did shoot 1974 in 8mm and his cast sure look like they’re wearing polyester. The early 1970’s details are spot on, except for the appearance of a Rubik’s Cube (accurately called a “Wonder Cube,” as it was known at the time, but it did not break out with consumers until the awesome 80s). Whatever, at least it helps reassure us what we’re watching really isn’t real.

Sure, there are a few weird little things happening here and there, but Manuel doesn’t worry about them until a load of bricks and black paint mysteriously arrives at their doorstep. To his surprise, Altair starts using them to build a black door in their bedroom, because “the angels told her to.” As she becomes increasingly spacey, even her standoffish sister Tere grows concerned. Manuel’s stoner pal Callahan even moves into to somehow help, but a fat lot of good he’ll do.

Of course, we know it ends badly from the in media res prologue, featuring the baffled TV news report of the aftermath. Frankly, this is one of the few found footage films in recent years that looks totally credible. So many Blair Witch copy-cats cheat and cut corners, but this really looks like freaky events in 1974 that were caught on a crummy consumer 8mm camera. If just about any viewer saw a film like this in 1998 (pre-Blair) they would be easily convinced it was legit—and deeply disturbed by it.


Granted, the ending is completely insane, but Dryere still comes close to earning it. Although it features some relatively established cast-members (such as Diana Bovio playing Altair), 1974 is not a star-making kind of film. Instead, they mostly do their duty to blend into the yucky 1970s milieu, while Dryere films them from odd angles and in unflattering light. The results are indeed pretty scary. Recommended for horror fans attracted by the ‘70s setting, 1974 screens tonight (10/15) at the Wythe Hotel, as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

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