“Crowsnest” is a found footage horror film directed by Brenton Spencer and written by John Sheppard. The film follows five friends who get lost during a weekend getaway and are attacked by a mysterious RV that tries to run them off the road.
Crowsnest opens with Justin (Victor Zinck Jr.) who is having fun recording footage out his apartment window with a new camcorder he just received as a birthday gift from his girlfriend Brooke (Mittita Barber). Soon thereafter, two friends Amanda (Chelsey Reist) and Kirk (Aslam Husain) drop by Justin’s apartment to help celebrate his birthday and discuss the weekend getaway the group has planned for the next day at a remote cottage owned by Kirk’s parents.
The next morning Amanda’s sister Danielle (Christie Burke) joins the group and all five friends pack into Kirk’s car and head off. Still excited about his new camera, Justin plans on recording the entire trip, which accounts for the found footage that makes up most of the film. We also learn that Kirk wants to make an impromptu stop at an out of the way place he heard of to buy beer at “half-price.”
As the group nears the town where the beer store is located, they stop to investigate what appears to be the butchered carcass of some large unidentified animal on the shoulder of the road. Kirk goes on to say, “It doesn’t look natural man. It’s not f**king natural whatever did this.”
Having seen enough, the group continue on their journey and enter the town of Crowsnest where they find the store Kirk’s been looking for. While in the store, the proprietor gives Kirk and Justin a stern warning to turn back the way they came, else they will die. The group fails to heed the warnings and continue on their adventure.
Shortly after the group leave the beer store, the group stops at the side of the road to make a nature call, and everyone leaves the car to stretch their legs. In what amounts to a really tense scene, Amanda is nearly run over by a passing RV that flies by without so much as slowing down. An enraged Kirk quickly ushers everyone back into the car and tries to catch up to the RV to get the license plate on camera. From here things go from bad to worse for the group as they soon learn that the RV is not what they think it is.
The plot of Crowsnest is unique, employing concepts common to other found footage films, but elevating them to new creative levels.
The filming reasons used in Crowsnest is good but not flawless. The primary reason for the found footage stems from the protagonist’s excitement over his new video camera, resulting in most of the footage captured in Crowsnest. Although this filming reason is sound, the inclusion of many video diaries and self testimonials in the middle of the forest while the group is hunted by the crazed antagonists doesn’t feel plausible. The group employs a second filming during scenes involving the antagonists, where the group captures footage of the antagonists to gather evidence for the insurance company and police. To this end, the filming reason comes across as necessary and authentic. Finally, there are a few night scenes where the camera night vision is used as a light source.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography in Crowsnest is spot-on. The camerawork does not come across as contrived or manipulated, but feels rather natural for what the filmmakers are going for. As that film progresses, the camcorder develops an increasing number of video artifacts which appear to be the result of a blunt force trauma the camera is subjected to multiple times during the film. What doesn’t make sense is that this “new” camera starts experiencing the video artifacts before they leave on their trip.
To the credit of the director, Crowsnest employs some interesting camera work that should not be overlooked. On more than one occasion, the camera is either lost or falls to the ground during a struggle, capturing the action from a ground-view perspective looking up. These interesting shots provide some unique perspectives and enable us to get a brief glimpse of the antagonists.
The found footage cinematography in Crowsnest is spot-on. The camerawork does not come across as contrived or manipulated, but feels rather natural for what the filmmakers are going for.
Acting and Plot
The acting of the principle cast is great all around, but Mittita Barber as Brooke is the standout in Crowsnest, delivering an exceptional and convincing performance. The plot of Crowsnest is unique, employing concepts common to other found footage films, but elevating them to new creative levels. True to form, Crowsnest includes several found footage tropes used to further the plot, such as lack of cell service, video diaries in the forest, and being lost in the forest. The plot of Crowsnest contains multiple jump scares that are completely unexpected and are sure to jolt even the most seasoned horror film aficionado.
The chase scenes between the protagonist’s car and the “attacking” RV” are reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971). The RV presents as a personified menacing monster attacking the protagonists during the most unsuspecting moments. The RV’s horn is effectively used on multiple occasions to drive home (pun intended) the fear and tension, replacing the role of background music which has no place in a pure found footage film.
Crowsnest contains multiple jump scares that are completely unexpected and are sure to jolt even the most seasoned horror film aficionado.
One annoying recurring theme in Crowsnest is the protagonists’ decision to stop their car and get out when they know the predator RV is actively hunting the group and closing in on them. The protagonists are portrayed as way too smart to behave this way, making these events seem out of character for the group.
Although the core plot of Crowsnest is openly available on film synopses on other websites, we will not discuss these spoilers to respect those readers who have not happened upon the information. Many will see the big reveal coming based on foreshadowing and many not-so-subtle breadcrumbs, but we’ll leave this point under wraps. That said, Crowsnest does offer a fair share of gore, although many of the gore elements occur off-screen and are described through dialog and screaming, leaving much to the imagination. This approach is very effective, actually making the scenes much more visceral than displaying everything front-and-center in the camera field of view.