“Unlisted Owner” is a found footage film directed by Jed Brian and written by Jed Brian and Tyler Landers. The film is presented as a compilation of police video evidence revealing the horrific events leading up to what is commonly known as the Owner Killings.
This film marks the directorial debut of Jed Brian as well as the acting debut for each of the ensemble cast. As is frequently the case with micro-budget found footage films, filmmakers are inspired (often out of necessity) to use local talent, leverage local resources, and tap into their creativity to come up with solutions that budget alone cannot solve. Unlisted Owner is a film that falls squarely in this quagmire. Does director Jed Brian deliver the goods with Unlisted Owner? Let’s find out.
Unlisted Owner opens with home video of a family of five moving into their newly purchased house. There’s lots of hustle and bustle as the parents and kids carry in boxes, put away belongings, and learn their way around.
The bright and airy start to Unlisted Owner takes a dark turn as the film transitions to several disturbing video clips filmed by one of the household’s daughters. She is clearly terrified and believes there is a home intruder. Unfortunately, her pleas for help go unanswered by her incredulous parents. In a devastating turn of events, the family of five is murdered shortly after moving into their new home and the horrific event is captured on video.
From here, Unlisted Owner transitions to video captured by a group of friends who live in the same town as the latest victims of the Owner Killings. The group of five heads out on a planned camping trip which coincidentally is only a few miles from the house where the murders took place.
After a few too many beers and with poor judgment prevailing, the group decides to break into the house to take a look around. Armed with nothing but their video cameras, the group of friends soon realize they are ill-equipped to handle the terror that waits in store for them.
Found Footage Cinematography
The found footage cinematography in Unlisted Owner is generally good. The film is comprised of footage captured from several handheld video cameras and a police station surveillance camera. Interestingly, Unlisted Owner takes the form of a compilation of chronologically presented police video evidence. Whenever the POV in the film changes, a title card is presented (presumably prepared at a police station) indicating the date, specific camera, and the person presumed to be holding the video camera.
The majority of the footage is shot with two handheld video cameras held by the protagonists. One of those two video cameras is wielded by character Jed, who is not surprisingly played by director Jed Brian. Quite often, found footage film directors take the role as the primary character holding the camera. This approach enables the director to better control the production, saving significant time and money.
Cinematically, the scenes shot by character Jed present as footage that could conceivably have come from the hands of an overzealous owner of a new video camera who is eager to film everything. Juxtaposed with the scenes filmed by Jed is footage shot by his friend Griffin.
Unlisted Owner also includes a police interrogation filmed from a fixed position surveillance camera at a police station. And, as mentioned earlier, the film opens with handheld video camera footage filmed by one of the five victims of the Owner Killings and possibly by the murderer himself. Unlisted Owner also contains a healthy dose of video glitches and other visual anomalies, due to damaged video equipment that is later recovered by police.
The filming reason is often the backbone of a well structured found footage film. After all, the filming reason is primarily responsible for providing viewers with a credible reason as to why the footage exists in the first place.
The police interrogation footage presented early in the movie is recorded as a matter of police procedure and therefore goes without question. The footage captured by the new homeowners at the beginning of Unlisted Owner is, in large part, equally as strong. Moving into a new home is a milestone event that is often filmed by families starting the next chapter of their lives. While these opening scenes are generally well justified, the footage contains a few Blair Witchy elements filmed by one of the daughters late at night. The reason why she would film these specific scenes in the manner that she does may raise an eyebrow for some viewers.
Most of the footage in Unlisted Owner is filmed by character Jed. He is captivated by his new video camera and films everything, for no other reason than the novelty of using his new toy. This filming reason is commonly used in found footage films but its exploitation is perhaps a bit too heavy-handed in Unlisted Owner. Fortunately, Jed’s reason for filming turns to that of a documentarian in the final act of the film when the group investigates the house where the family of five was murdered, lending credence to his continued filming.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity measures how well a film presents as real found footage. This rating criterion takes many variables into consideration, including the cinematography, acting, sound, special effects, and story. Director Jed Brian does a commendable job creating a convincing found footage movie, but the film nonetheless is faced with some challenges.
They say that the devil is in the details, and this is where Unlisted Owner loses its footing from time to time. In the pages of Found Footage Critic we often call-out films that break from the cardinal rules of found footage—most notable is the fact that handheld video cameras do not record the on-screen graphical elements such as the battery level icon and viewfinder. These graphics are visible to the viewer looking at the video camera LCD display during live recording but are not saved for future playback.
Throughout Unlisted Owner, the video camera held by character Jed periodically displays the battery level icon. This icon is not recordable to video. In the last act of the film, another character films using a second video camera which inexplicably records the “Facial Recognition Focus” message and floating boxes outlining the characters’ faces. Again, these elements do not record to video. While these on-screen graphics offer interesting visuals for viewers, some found footage purists may be taken out of the moment when these artifacts (particularly the facial recognition) present themselves.
More leeway is given to the graphics presented on the surveillance camera and police dash camera used in Unlisted Owner. This class of video cameras is designed specifically for remote monitoring and more information is typically available for on-screen recording.
Unlisted Owner also contains a good deal of video artifacts, including static and pixelation. The film explains that the video cameras were damaged, resulting in the degraded recording. The computer-generated visual effects were created by Director Jed Brian and Co-Producer Brent Perrott. It turns out that Director Jed Brian has a bachelor’s degree in digital entertainment and game design, equipping him with the editing and digital effects skills needed for Unlisted Owner.
The ensemble cast performs commendably considering this is their acting debut. In an interview, Director Jed Brian said that the Unlisted Owner cast consists mostly of friends and relatives local to his hometown of Sumner, Illinois. As we often see in found footage films, each of the actors plays characters of the same first name.
The five main protagonists in the film share a believable chemistry. This bonding should come as no surprise given that the primary cast is real-life friends. Tyler Landers, Gavin Groves, and Jed Brian convincingly portray three boisterous close friends in a small quiet town looking for something exciting to do. The lore of investigating a homicide crime scene in their own backyard is simply too much for the group to pass up.
Griffen Groves is good as the quiet and unassuming member of the group who unwittingly participates in the group’s illegal breaking and entering. Haidee Corona and Andrea Potts are believable as two close friends who join their respective boyfriends (Jed and Griffin) on their adventure, only to realize the consequences of their decision after it is too late.
Tanner Hoke performs admirably as the acquaintance group and does a good job during the police interrogation scene early in the film. Also worth mentioning are the cast who played the numerous residents of the crime scene house: Mark Nation-Ellis, Chloe Benedict, Amber Newlin, Trenton Wilkinson, Graycie Sapp, Chris Ash, and Abby Brian.
Ask even the most seasoned director, and he or she will tell you that creating a feature film is a monumental task. With the completion of Unlisted Owner, this is precisely what Jed Brian accomplished. Even more remarkable is that he did all of this with no formal training as a filmmaker, with a limited budget, and in rural illinois—far from the areas of the country where many horror films find their beginnings.
So what are Jed Brian’s expertise and background? As mentioned earlier, he has a bachelor’s degree in digital entertainment and game design. Jed Brian is also a volunteer firefighter, which enabled him to procure firefighters, police, and EMS personnel for the film.
We asked Jed Brian how Unlisted Owner evolved, and he said, “I came up with the concept for the film around the scene of Tyler being pulled up into the attic space and wrote it around the resources I knew we had available. I also wrote the script around the people I knew who were committed to acting in it as well.”
At its core, Unlisted Owner is a slasher film using the found footage genre as a vehicle to tell the story. The underlying plot for the film is interesting and somewhat novel—something that we can’t discuss too deeply without revealing spoilers. Like every film, Unlisted Owner has its ups and downs, but is nonetheless a commendable achievement for director Jed Brian. The interesting story, capable acting, and passion that went into the production make this a film worth watching.