Thursday, October 1, 2015

Film Review: Archivo 253 (aka File 253) (2015)

Archivo 253 (aka File 253)
Mexico/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"Archivo 253's fatal errors are embedded in the DNA of the film..."

A group of friends enter an abandoned asylum in hopes of finding evidence of the paranormal...

Archivo 253 is another very simple found-footage horror film. The movie follows Diego (Michel Chauvet), the foolish leader, Isabella (Anna Cetti), Diego's girlfriend, Mateo (Mario Escalante), the audio expert, and Charly (Juan Luis Tovar), the cameraman. These four hollow characters break into an abandoned asylum with a haunting history – electrotherapy, exorcisms, and such. Anyway, they do exactly what you expect them to do: they stumble about in the darkness, try to talk to the restless spirits, maybe agitate a few, then run around like madmen at the end. The ending was very abrupt and unsatisfying – I actually had to rewind the movie to see if I missed anything.

I'm already bashing the film quiet a bit, so let me get some of the good stuff out of the way. First, I thought the film started off promising. It has a very eerie and realistic vibe. It felt like I was watching one of those urban exploration videos, where people stumble into abandoned buildings and capture some eerie footage – I like this vibe. Archivo 253 also has some eerie imagery here and there, as well as some spooky sounds – a baby crying or a shadow lurking in the background, that kind of stuff. And, if you like jump-scares, there are quite a few in here.

Archivo 253's fatal errors are embedded in the DNA of the film – the structure, the format, the found-footage. This film suffers from the same issues most found-footage films suffer from. The characters are very bland and hollow, the story is unbelievably predictable, the horror is very inconsistent, and the pacing is off. Combine these glaring flaws and you cook up something that quickly becomes dull and forgettable. At times, it moves rather quickly, then there are those moments where it slows to a snail's pace – like watching someone's home videos. There were a few moments where my mind actually trailed and I started thinking about something completely irrelevant – and I didn't miss a thing! I mentioned those urban exploration videos earlier – this film would have been better as one of those videos!

The acting was good, though. The characters were very generic, but the performances were actually decent. Mario Escalante stood out as the most realistic to me. Unfortunately, on the technical side, that's as good as it gets. As I've said, the film adopts the same old found-footage flaws. For me, these are the most annoying: the nauseating shaky cam and the convenient malfunctioning footage. These become significant flaws towards the final act, where, as you can probably guess, the camera is wildly shaking or malfunctioning whenever something is going to happen. The film is written by Joseph Hemsani and Abe Rosenberg; Rosenberg also directs. The film has an interesting premise and some interesting ideas, which I won't spoil, but the execution is habitually flawed. For whatever reason, this duo opt to use the same old found-footage formula without a single positive change, and that hinders the writing and direction.

Overall, Archivo 253 is a mediocre film. The film begins with so much promise, but it simple refuses to deviate from the broken found-footage formula. The actors give strong performances, especially for the genre, but they are held back by the generic characters they embody. The film has a few scares, but not enough to warrant its already short length. On that point, the poor balance and pacing make this film feel much longer than its actual 75 minute runtime. I'm still hopeful there will be another great found-footage film some day. Until then, I recommend sticking to [Rec], The Taking of Deborah Logan, and The Possession of Michael King. This? Well, you'll only enjoy this film if you're a hardcore fan of the genre and you're much more forgiving.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and some brief nudity.

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