“To Jennifer” is a found footage comedy/horror film written and directed by James Cullen Bressack that follows the exploits of three friends filming their adventure to track down and confront a girlfriend cheating on one of the group. This film is noteworthy in that the entire feature is captured using an iPhone 5. The film stars Chuck Pappas (Joey), Jessica Cameron (Jennifer), James Cullen Bressack (Steven), and Jody Barton (Martin).
To Jennifer, follows Bressack’s controversial yet visceral found footage film Hate Crimes (2012). Bressack’s latest creation has a decidedly lighter tone than Hate Crimes, playing out more as a comedy/drama than a horror film.
To Jennifer opens with the camera trained on Joey (Pappas) who is making a video diary for his long distance girlfriend Jennifer, and behind the camera filming is Joey’s cousin Steven (Bressack). A neurotic and anxious Joey says that he “knows” Jennifer is cheating on him because of a text message he receives by accident that reads, “Come over and we can finish where we started last night :)” Delivered with an eerie smile and disturbing calmness, Joey explains that he’s going to stakeout Jennifer’s house to film evidence of her cheating.
To Jennifer is noteworthy in that the entire feature is captured using an iPhone 5.
Joey decides to document everything leading up to his impending confrontation with Jennifer to demonstrate the pain and heartache she’s put him through and present evidence of her infidelity. Steven believes Joey is simply trying to catch Jennifer in the act so he can confront her in person and end the relationship, however, Joey clearly has more nefarious motives in mind, which his cousin Steven is clearly oblivious to.
With the camera rolling, the duo head for the airport and catch a flight to Jennifer’s home town. Shortly after takeoff Joey has a panic attack at which time Steven starts needling his cousin, further exacerbating his anxiety until Joey finally cracks under the pressure. In a truly humorous scene, Joey locks himself in the airplane lavatory, screaming obscenities at the flight attendant. Next we hear the flight attendant yell “flight Martial” and then the scene abruptly cuts to Joey in a hospital emergency room – we learn that the flight was redirected back to the airport and Joey was placed on the “no fly” list. Adding to the humor, Joey is admitted to the hospital for a psych evaluation, spending four days as an inpatient before being released.
After leaving the hospital Joey is still focused on following through with his plan to confront Jennifer, but neither Joey nor his cousin have a car to make the trip. Steven asks his friend Martin to drive them to Jennifer. From here the trio starts their adventure together, which includes: Joey trying to hack into Facebook, a hilarious house party, Joey getting his ass whooped in a fight, a stay in a seedy hotel, and an encounter with a transvestite prostitute. All the while Joey becomes increasingly unnerved with every off-the-wall incident they encounter.
Without giving away any spoilers, Joey ultimately has his confrontation with Jennifer (Cameron), but you’ll have to watch the film to learn what happens.
Plot and Acting
The charm of To Jennifer is following the journey of the main characters and watching their reactions to all the absurd obstacles they have to overcome during their pilgrimage to find Jennifer. To this end, the plot serves as a vehicle for the great setups the three main characters encounter. The “Jennifer dissing-session” at Martin’s party and prostitute scenes in the hotel alone made this film well worth the watch.
The acting in To Jennifer is surprisingly good; offering a genuineness that makes the film shine and helping solidify the found footage approach. From the way Chuck Pappas, James Cullen Bressack, and Jody Barton bounce lines off one another, I wouldn’t be surprised if these three actors are friends in real life. I could tell from watching To Jennifer that the cast had a good time filming, which comes across in the acting, chemistry, and humor – making the film that much more enjoyable.
Jennifer (Jessica Cameron) makes her appearance in the final 15 minutes of the film, which takes on a more serious tone than the preceding hour. While Cameron’s performance is first-rate, the final 15 minutes of To Jennifer doesn’t have the same chemistry and pacing that carries through the first hour of the film, leaving the ending scenes falling slightly flat in comparison. This is a rather small point in the context of the whole film, which is very entertaining.
The charm of To Jennifer is following the journey of the main characters and watching their reactions to all the absurd obstacles they have to overcome during their pilgrimage to find Jennifer.
Found Footage Reason
The found footage reason, meaning the rationale as to why the camera is kept rolling to capture everything, makes perfect sense in To Jennifer. Our anti-hero Joey is filming a video diary and explicitly wants to capture everything, and the fact that he becomes increasingly unhinged (if not outright insane) as the film progresses adds further plausibility to the filming reason. Additionally, this film is primarily about three friends on a road trip, and the trio naturally film all the antics taking place during their journey. Towards the end of the film, Steven uses the camera as a light source in Jennifer’s house, providing a good justification for keeping the camera rolling in a situation where a person would not otherwise be filming.
A nice touch is a scene early in the film where Joey takes a phone call and Bressack’s character throws out the line “Hey dude, speaker phone that shit!” – reminding Joey that they need to capture the audio on film. Asking Joey to use speaker phone rather than having Joey do so automatically comes across as more real. Small nuances like this, coupled with the great cinematography make for a technically sound found footage film.
Found Footage Cinematography
You shouldn’t come into To Jennifer with any preconceived notions based solely on the fact that this film was created using an iPhone 5. If I wasn’t explicitly told that To Jennifer was filmed entirely on an iPhone 5, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser. Bressack expertly wields the camera for most of the film and does a phenomenal job at portraying found footage and keeping the dialog authentic and believable. The camera work is steady and is a far cry above the shaky cam often seen in found footage films. Another nice touch is the way Bressack doesn’t always keep the characters squarely in-frame, which lends more authenticity to the final product.
Bressack expertly wields the camera for most of the film and does a phenomenal job at portraying found footage and keeping the dialog authentic and believable.
To Jennifer is an expertly composed and well thought out found footage film, doing a good job at hitting all the right notes from a technical standpoint, for which James Cullen Bressack should be praised. The plot is rather unique as far as found footage films are concerned and the lighthearted tone is a breathe of fresh air for a genre primarily comprised of straight-up horror films.