The phrase “found footage” can often strike a chord of terror in horror fans because it’s often the basis for mediocre (or worse) films. Once in a while a filmmaker will get it right, and director Scott Slone‘s “Malibu Horror Story” is a genuinely scary movie with just enough realism to deliver a good fright.
Building a foundation on eerie Native American folklore, the film tells the story of a team of paranormal investigators who are documenting their efforts to dig deeper into an unsolved mystery that left four young men missing. While searching for clues, they find that the disappearance can be tracked to a sacred cave deep in the mountains of Malibu. Armed with special equipment and know-how, the team comes face to face with a deadly ancient spirit that wants to rip away their souls.
The film dives right in with an effective storytelling device that feels like you are watching a true crime documentary on television. News clips and interviews set up the backstory, as does a brief exploration of the history of the area where the men were last seen. An urban legend about a family cursed for stealing land from Native Americans sounds and seems realistic, and this documentary portion of the film is the strongest, setting viewers up for what’s to come when video footage of the men’s camping trip is uncovered.
The characters and their actions are believable, from accidentally overdosing on mushrooms to exploring a creepy cave to prove a point. You’d think a group of Malibu bros would be insufferable to spend time with, but they aren’t. Slone ties the found footage together with the experience and reactions of the paranormal investigation crew as they watch and uncover the horror of what actually happened, which makes the audience feel like we are right there with them. I was so invested in the story that I found myself internally screaming “don’t be an idiot and go around opening portals to the supernatural world!“
Even with a found footage gimmick the storytelling is brisk, until a drawn out ending that’s overdone but still satisfying. If you’re looking for some quality, creepy scares, “Malibu Horror Story” is a little indie horror film that delivers.