The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is a 2012 found footage horror movie from New Zealand taking the form of a video diary. The film is sparsely cast and boasts pure found footage with no added sound design or CGI. The story follows teenagers Madi and Jenna as they run away from home and take up residence in an abandoned house.
The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is a film surrounded in controversy. At the time of the film’s release, many viewers believed The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries was actual footage discovered by the New Zealand police.
The production company brilliantly launched a six-year long social media campaign in the same spirit as Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) in an attempt to shift public perception. To advance the deception of realism, the filmmakers took advantage of the fact that The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries was (and still is) not as well known as its found footage predecessors. The filmmakers created a great deal of faux marketing without much scrutiny from the media, who were focused on larger films and stories.
The IMDB page for The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries only credits one person, “Madi O” herself as the video camera operator. The film contains no closing credits and the IMDB page contains no director, writer, or cast credits. In 2012, a petition was launched on the popular appeal site Change.org requesting signatures to shut down Wild Eye Releasing’s release of The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries. The petition states, “This film is stolen police property and as such should not be released to the general public […] people should not be allowed to exploit missing persons for profit.”
While the petition on Change.org expired over two years ago, active accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress claiming to be operated by members of either Madi or Jenna’s families continue to facilitate the deception. The images used on these social media sites are candid and were not pulled from Madi O’s footage, further bolstering the film’s credibility. A thorough search of the Internet names Harold Brodie as the film’s director.
Found Footage Cinematography and Purity
The found footage cinematography and purity in The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries are perfect. Similar to The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007), the film contains no opening title card other than an on-screen message indicating that the film about to start is a composite of recovered footage. The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries takes this approach one step further and does not include a closing credit sequence.
The film maintains unwaveringly perfect cinematic realism throughout. The unpolished and sometimes blurry camerawork comes across as the work of an untrained cinematographer. During several scenes, protagonist Madi remarks “Oh wait, the camera is blurry” and fumbles to fix the focus while filming. While Madi captures most of the footage, all of the characters have an opportunity to film.
Compared to many found footage horror films, The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is in the minority as the film does not contain any detectable sound design, supplemental lighting, or CGI of any kind. The film relies strictly on character driven cinematography, strong storytelling, and acting. The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is 100% pure found footage.
Plot and Acting
The first thirty minutes of The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries focuses on the relationship between the two main characters. Early on the film establishes that Madi and Jenna have been friends for a very long time. As the story unfolds we learn that the two friends first met during school at age 8.
In the first few minutes of the film, Madi and Jenna run away from home, carrying little more than the clothes on their backs. Between their vulgar conversations and thick Auckland accents, Madi and Jenna’s conversations may be difficult for some viewers to follow at times. Nonetheless, the two female actors are utterly convincing.
Shortly after the film starts, Madi and Jenna break into an abandoned two story house. With its wooden floors, high windows, and metal terraces, this now unoccupied house was once home to someone of affluence. Despite the lack of furniture, Madi and Jenna still manage to enjoy themselves exploring the rooms, engaging in vulgar small-talk, and using marijuana. The next hour of the film follows the same basic formula in repeating fashion. Midway through the film, the two friends break into someone’s yard and steal fruit.
It’s not until a third character is introduced that the pace quickens and the story moves in a new direction. We leave the details of this new character intentionally vague to avoid spoilers. What can be said is that this new character breaks up some of the monotony that develops late in the film and adds elements of terror to an otherwise not-so-scary film. The acting of this third character is not as strong as Madi and Jenna. The acting of the uncredited actors playing Madi and Jenna is exceptional. Their relationship is convincingly strong and their behavior very credibly recreates adolescence.
Madi’s reason for filming is abundantly clear and believable throughout the majority of the film. When asked why she very rarely puts the video camera down Madi responds, “To keep records of things, to keep a record of my life.” This filming reason applies equally well to Jenna, who also films with the added reason of trying to catch Madi in compromising situations.
During the evening, Madi and Jenna use the video camera as their only light source. The house they are squatting in has no running water or electricity. The lack of electricity adds plausibility as to why Madi films at night while in peril.
The film includes a few scattered scenes where Madi’s motivation for filming come into question. In one particular scene, Madi inexplicably films Jenna who has fallen very ill. Jenna goes so far as to ask Madi why she is filming at a time like this and Madi says, “We have to film this to show a doctor.” – would a person really behave this way or put the video camera down to help their friend? Despite a few inconsistencies, the filming reason throughout The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is strong.
Realism and Immersion
The found footage in The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is organized as a series of “Entries,” where each entry is a separate video clip with its own title card. The time between entries varies from minutes to hours.
The film has an interesting plot, good ending, and great found footage execution. The only real criticism of The Video Diary of Madi O Final Entries is the prolonged exchange of vulgarities and playing around between Madi and Jenna. While these scenes define the film, they are simply too long and too plentiful.