This Creepy Movie Feels Like It Was Entirely Shot on Surveillance Cameras

Movies


The Big Picture

  • The found footage genre needs to be reinvented to remain interesting, and 2007’s Look is a great example of what the genre can accomplish.
  • Look is a film exploring the theme of surveillance and how we are always being watched.
  • The film intertwines multiple storylines and ends up paying characters back in the way they deserve.


Found footage is one of the most tried and true subgenres that you’ll find in horror. Ever since Cannibal Holocaust first put audiences in the shoes of the victims, this little nook of spooky cinema has been captured through the eyes of unsuspecting catacomb explorers, 20-something New Yorkers, and, of course, many ignorant college students. These movies are often made by young filmmakers who are looking to find a cheap route into Hollywood. Unfortunately, they typically seem to be made with little attention put towards entertaining the audience, and keeping the pace of the story moving. Still, there are numerous gems to be found, be it defining entries like Paranormal Activity, cult classics like The Last Broadcast, or recent gems like The Outwaters. Found footage movies don’t always work, but when they do something new, it helps their chances of standing out.

That’s what makes the obscurity of 2007’s Look so odd. If you’re looking for a found footage movie to do something different, then this is absolutely what you need. First and foremost, it’s always interesting when this narrative device is used in genres besides horror. Look is not brimming with ghosts, demons, or aliens. Instead, it’s told from the perspective of the surveillance cameras that capture our everyday lives, and in doing so, expose the evils of man. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy-handed and obvious in its themes, that’s for sure. That being said, it’s still a fascinating exercise, and should be celebrated for successfully doing something different with this typically creatively void format. With its intertwining storylines and ambitious scope, Look deserves a bit more credit for breaking the mold and doing something different with the canvas that it was given.

Look

The lies, betrayal, and desires of nine different groups of people are revealed as they live out their secret lives in the sight of the security cameras that capture our every movement.

Release Date
December 5, 2007

Director
Adam Rifkin

Cast
Rhys Coiro , Hayes MacArthur , Giuseppe Andrews , Spencer Redford , Jennifer Fontaine , Heather Hogan

Runtime
102

Main Genre
Drama


By 2007, found footage was already starting to feel a bit old hat. It wasn’t quite where things are today, with the seemingly endless ocean of them being made in the 2010s. Still, the 2000s were relentless. The phenomenon that was The Blair Witch Project rippled through Hollywood, creating plenty of ripoffs and cash grabs in its wake. That being said, this was a much more ambitious period for these movies. Giant monster movies got their found footage spin with Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity domesticized them, and Look made everyone on Earth a potential character. Whether you’re thinking about it or not, you’re almost always being filmed by some sort of surveillance camera when you’re out in public.

Adam Rifkin had been working in Hollywood for decades before taking on Look. He spent the late 80s through the early 90s writing and directing numerous indie films, genre movies, and the occasional studio picture. A prolific career in B-movies and independent cinema must have spurred him to eventually look for a new way to spin the medium that he had worked in for so long.

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In an interview with Impulse Gamer, Rifkin explained how personal experiences spurred into Look by saying, “…the idea for the film came when I received a ticket from one of those red light cameras. Apparently I had run a red light without realizing it and when I got the ticket in the mail it was accompanied by a photo of me running the light.” Rifkin went on by saying,

“The idea that I had been photographed without my knowledge and that the picture had been sent to my home address unnerved me. I started to wonder how many other times on a given day I was being caught on camera without knowing it. I started paying attention and soon started spotting cameras everywhere. I then did a little research and discovered that the average American is caught on camera hundreds of times a day. That’s when the idea of shooting a movie entirely with surveillance cameras started to come into focus.”

‘Look’ Both Criticizes and Pushes for Surveillance Cameras

What came to pass was a film that follows numerous storylines, most of which end up crossing paths at one point or another. It’s not quite an anthology film, think more along the lines of Pulp Fiction. Look jumps back and forth between the stories of a socially awkward office worker, a business manager who frequently harasses or has sex with various employees, two criminals, a gas station cashier, and a teacher who enters an extramarital affair with one of his students.

Depending on the plot line that we’re following, and sometimes depending on the exact place that these plots are in, surveillance cameras seem to be something that Rifkin both trusts in and also is skeptical of. Look can be pretty heavy-handed a lot of the time. Only a few minutes into the movie, two high school teenagers hop into a car and accidentally back into somebody else’s car. One of them says something along the lines of “Do you think anyone saw that?” They drive off, laughing the whole way away. Rifkin is very obviously pointing out the fact that people do terrible things all the time that are captured on video, only to get away with these acts Scott-free. We’re talking about acts that range the depths of evil, from farting in an elevator and walking off, all the way to murder. If you need a cynical movie that hardly believes in humanity at all, then Look is the movie for you.

The thing is that, while many characters walk away from committing awful acts, Look ends up circling back and mostly paying everyone back in the way that they deserve. Some characters are rewarded for their actions, while other monsters are finally paid their dues. In the same way that he narratively proclaims his distrust in surveillance cameras, Rifkin basically does the opposite at the end. The amount of these cameras can be a bit alarming at times, but the film seems to argue that they are ultimately good for our society.

As a found footage movie, Look is more entertaining than most. The alternating plot lines keep things from getting too repetitive. That said, given that the whole movie is shot from security, cell phone, doorbell, and other surveillance cameras, there are almost no closeups. This can make it a bit tough to relate to the characters, but by the end of the movie, enough terrible things have happened that you don’t really need closeups to sympathize with them. Look tends to jump from one tone to the next with little regard to how it might have presented itself a few minutes before, so it can leave you feeling a bit all over the place. You could also argue that life doesn’t really care about how things might have gone for you a minute ago, so in that way, Look is just being real.

It might be a bit tonally jarring at times, but for the most part, Look is a fantastic shakeup of the found footage format. If you’re looking to dive into this avenue of film a bit more but are trying to avoid horror, then Rifkin’s underseen gem is for you. It might not be a horror film, but you’ll walk away feeling creeped out by the thought of how much we’re all always being filmed. Who knows, you might get caught under surveillance while thinking about it!

Look is available to purchase on DVD on Amazon.

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