The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me the pleasure of broadening my horizons in terms of how I consume movies including more of an appreciation for streaming. As such I’ve had the pleasure of also learning of many small films that would otherwise go overlooked. Several of these pictures turned out to fit into the found footage genre of horror including Shutter’s 2020 release “Host” and this little film, the Amazon release “8ight After”. Directed by and starring Vincent Rocca and co-starring his wife Deanna Rocca, “8ight After” doesn’t really do much to redefine its chosen subgenre or stand out from the pack, but for a small independent film with a minimalist budget it does its best with what little it has to create a fitting homage to found footage while also reminding us what made this once-unique gimmick so intriguing.
“8ight After” stars Vincent and Deanna Rocca as fictional versions of themselves who, as vloggers, record their daily lives and post them on the internet for fans to experience. While doing a home renovation the pair finds a hidden cross that Deanna feels connected with. Soon after, the duo start to experience strange happenings in their home, specifically at eight after one in the morning, while also trying to ward off an obsessive fan who continues to stalk Vincent. As Deanna begins to show signs of possession the two attempt to get to the bottom of whatever curse they’ve unleashed upon their home. As I said this movie far from reinvents the found footage genre and is, for all intents and purposes, more of a love letter to the gimmick than a revitalization of the idea. “8ight After” is extremely cliché in its style and presentation and while I don’t think this was necessarily on purpose it actually gives the movie an effective charm as a small tribute to a subgenre I personally very much enjoy.
It should be said that Vincent and Deanna’s chemistry as a couple shines brightly on film. While they’re acting and the script aren’t exactly top notch, the two are likable and you can genuinely feel for their plight. Their combined energy makes even the driest parts of the film feel lively and fun and their presentation of vlogger life sort of feels like a commentary on our obsession with seeking attention. I do feel there were many missed opportunities with this subtext though as the movie quickly devolves into a generic “Paranormal Activity” rip-off complete with even the same word font from that franchise to designate the nights of the recordings. What could have, and probably should have been an in depth examination of the risks of social media overload settles for being a by-the-books camera-POV horror flick borrowing many of the most effective elements from previous subgenre movies with much less bite than its predicessors.
That’s not to say that “8ight After” is unwatchable or bad necessarily. It has it’s moments with some neat jump scares, an engaging enough mystery behind the paranormal activity and even makes great use of the idea of a video editor being behind the camera to mislead the audience. Several early sightings of the entity are seemingly caught on tape only for Vincent to reveal to his fans, and thus the film audience as well, that he inserted those images to add some context to his wife’s reactions in the vlog. This was a pretty neat touch and one of the few unique elements of the film as it creates this sense of distrust in the viewer making us always question if what we’re seeing is what the characters see of if it was added during Vincent’s post production for the vlog. I give the film credit as well for adding in an easily understandable mythology that provides a potential origin for the spirits haunting the home. A lot of found footage films like to refrain from sharing every detail to help add to the mystery and realism of the narrative, i.e. to keep the audience ignorant of facts the characters themselves don’t know. “8ight After” goes for a more traditional storytelling route and doesn’t try to sequel bait or hide its mythology, choosing instead to embrace its simplicity head on.
When you get down to it, “8ight After” just doesn’t rise to the occasion but if you’re a fan of found footage and have been feeling fatigue this might be a nice trip down memory lane to remind you of the subgenre’s glory days. It has its moments and I’ll definitely recommend it as a fun movie in its own right, but if you’ve see found footage or computer screen films before you’ve seen what this movie has to offer. It’s a fine enough film for something on a miniscule budget, but it feels shamelessly derivative. Still, I had fun with it. I has a few solid scares, a tightly woven mystery and mythology, and in spite of the lackluster script and relatively bland performances the chemistry between the leads makes up for a lot of its shortcomings and makes it an easy watch. If you have Amazon I recommend you check it out for yourself and see how it fits your tastes.