If there is one thing that regular readers of this site may have discovered about me in the years that I’ve ran it, it’s that I am not a fan of “found footage” films. Like, not at all! In fact, I generally detest the sub-genre, and have vocally stated this opinion on numerous occasions. So, why, knowing all this and having clearly stated it prior, would I once again willingly accept a request to review a newly released “found footage” feature film? I truly don’t have an answer for you. I’m more curious how I’ve managed to cover so many alien films this early into the year.
In writer/director Chris Wax’s Case 347, a documentary film crew set out to examine the phenomena of reported alien encounters and abductions. It may be more accurate to say that they hope to disprove these claims as a sign of a shared delusion or even mental illness or instability. This theory, that such occurrences exist only in the minds of those who adamantly believe in the possibility of extra-terrestrial life and their alleged frequent visitations to our planet, is strongly held by Mia (Maya Stojan, who has appeared on TV’s Castle and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), who herself is the daughter of one such “true believer”. Her father, psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Jansen, lost his job and his credibility chasing such tales as these, which created a strained relationship between father and daughter before his unexplained disappearance 2 years prior.
Joining Mia for this trip are her boyfriend, Charlie (played by Wax), and their friend, Rex (Jason Kropik). Both men will serve as cameramen for the documentary, as well as drivers. The trip starts with a stop at the home of Dr. Jansen, deserted since his disappearance, which Mia also believes was the man’s death. Along the way, they stop on the side of a desert highway, at which point Rex films a mysterious ring-shaped object in the sky. At Mia’s father’s home, they discover a room containing countless newspaper clippings, articles, documents, and reports that he had collected pertaining to reported UFO sightings and abductions that occurred within a 200-mile radius of the house. Among these items, they find a photo featuring a floating ring that looks exactly like the one Rex observed earlier.
They contact the man who took the photo and learn that he was an associate of Dr. Jansen’s. The man, named Rod, agrees to meet them not too far from the house later that evening. However, when they arrive at the designated spot, they find Rod and another man waiting in a pick-up truck while brandishing rifles! Although initially apprehensive, Rod and his friend prove to be harmless and are willing to explain their theories and beliefs to Mia and her crew, even if she has already labeled both men as delusional and presumably dealing with PTSD issues from their time in the armed services.
As Mia seems to be oblivious to the significance of their meeting spot, Rod informs the crew that they are standing just outside what he claims to be Area 51. Moments later, the area is rocked by what appears to be a sonic boom. This is followed by the appearance of an unknown craft on Rod’s in-truck radar system. The craft stops in its tracks for a few seconds before suddenly vanishing from the radar entirely. When asked if this could have just been a plane or satellite that was detected, Rod laughs, citing that no Earth-made craft is capable of performing such maneuvers.
From there, they next meet with an alleged abductee listed in her father’s records. The man, who looks clearly disheveled and more than a little on edge, claims to have been abducted many years prior during a camp out at White Sands, home of a U.S. rocket test facility. The man started feeling ill before noticing a very bright light. His next memory was of waking in a field some 3 day later and 300 miles away! He continues to spin a tale of horrific nightmares that revealed what happened during this missing time, as well as presents possible evidence of physical “modification”.
From here, the crew continue to encounter bizarre incidents and situations, such as townsfolk who angrily warn them to leave town and drop the subject, the sensation that they are being watched, and even an unsettling late-night run-in with a ghostly child with black eyes who asks to enter their vehicle before screaming at them like a banshee. Mia soon starts to question her own steadfast skepticism regarding the topic, especially when she later learns that these “black-eyed kids” (or “BK’s”, as they are sometimes called) are related to many alleged encounters, acting as “traps” to lure in potential abductees.
The crew soon receives a surprise visit at the house from a Dr. Berchum (Richard Gilliland – 1975’s Bug, Airplane II), who claims not only to be a colleague of Mia’s father, but was also the oncologist who treated Mia’s mother during her fatal bout with cancer back when Mia was only a child. Berchum has been investigating the same events and working with the same abductees as her father. He warns the crew that they have placed themselves in danger’s way just by being at the house.
Berchum convinces Mia to meet with a family living nearby who are experiencing bizarre issues that may be UFO related. Cameras are set up at the family’s home, in the hopes of catching any otherworldly activities that may take place throughout the night. It doesn’t take long for one to occur. Even more discoveries are made that strongly imply that strange and possibly sinister events are indeed unfolding on the family’s property.
Case 347 proved to be a rather pleasant surprise for me. Not only did I not despise the film as I had expected to (given my distaste for “found footage”), but I actually quite enjoyed it. Performances were solid overall, with Stojak giving a particularly convincing portrayal of a skeptic who is running out of logical explanations for the situation they find themselves in. While the supporting cast all give generally respectable performances, this is her boat to keep afloat and she does so capably.
Unfortunately, the film’s final minutes may also be its least convincing. Also quite unconvincing is a particular visual effect that is used in the closing moments of the film. While it’s one that most viewers knew would be coming, there’s solid argument that it should have never been present at all, especially when it is handled so poorly. Honestly, this is undoubtedly a case where less would have equaled more. There’s also the ever-present issue that “found-footage” films all tend to end with an unfortunate fate for our protagonist(s), which immediately eliminates some “element of surprise”.
As previously stated, Case 347 caught me by surprise, and thus receives the H&S recommendation. It’s probably not going to be anyone’s new favorite alien abduction film, but it provides a compelling story and is impressively entertaining. I can’t really ask for much more than that.
Case 347 is now available to rent on Amazon Prime Video. https://amzn.to/2WvCBvk
Case 347 is also available on FLIXFLING, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, iTunes, and Google Play