A movie that centers around three YouTubers wanting to make their own movie/documentary is something we saw about 20 years ago with The Blair Witch Project, which centered on three film students whose goal was to document the Blair Witch over the course of a few days. While The 16th Episode may not be as groundbreaking or as highly effective as The Blair Witch Project, it’s still able to offer some solid suspense, provides interesting world-building, and is almost self-aware on what it’s trying to accomplish.
The story focuses on three YouTubers struggling to get more views on their adventure channel who decide to travel to the mythical city of Casablanca to capture themselves experiencing another culture, unaware that it hides a terrifying secret.
This could have been a situation where The 16th Episode essentially ripped off the story that The Blair Witch Project offered, and it’s hard to not compare the two. It’s shot using a very similar style and, in some instances, it’s almost presented the same way as The Blair Witch Project. While the characters in The 16th Episode have different types of personalities than those in The Blair Witch Project, an aspect which really makes their performances stand out even more, they have less dimension, are less developed, and the personalities aren’t really that strong.
Found footage has, and for good reasons, gotten a lot of negativity for the last 10 years. For some, it’s a lazy film tactic that makes audiences nauseous, whether it’s utilizing hyper editing, violent camera moments, or horrific pacing. For others, it makes things seem more realistic and more enticing. The found footage, in the case for The 16th Episode, was utilized very well. The movie had a nice balance of found footage and more traditional filmmaking. The found footage scenes would be used to enhance a better 1st person perspective, whereas the more traditional filmmaking would be used to enhance the 3rd person perspective, in order to provide a better sense of what’s happening. From time to time, it would cut to the characters using their own cameras, then it would switch to a more traditional sense of filmmaking. This aspect of the film didn’t seem too distracting because it did have a nice flow and it allowed the audience to see more of the action.
The biggest aspect that this movie has going for it is how YouTube is involved. Considering how big YouTube has gotten over the last 5-7 years, that little aspect of the story made things more investing and more engaging. It’s sort of inspiring to see YouTubers get represented on screen because it may not be a large portion of the world, but it’s certainly part of the population.
As far as the horror goes, The 16th Episode has an effective use of tension and some solid build up. Granted, these aspects could have been done a tad better, but it certainly was impressive in terms of how it was handled and directed. The movie does utilize blood and gore very well and it was highly effective, especially from a technical and visual point of view. It definitely stuck the landing in that regard. And what’s even more interesting is that the horror in this movie is being explored in international territory. So, in essence, the horror feels a bit more unconventional than one might expect because normally, found footage movies explore domestic territory, so to have it set in another environment was an interesting tactic.
The substance, performances, and the overall scope of this movie should have been tweaked a bit more in order to gain full audience satisfaction. The performances, for the most part, are pretty generic and are nothing memorable. Found footage movies rarely feature Oscar-caliber acting because audiences don’t expect it from these types of movies, and that’s certainly not in The 16th Episode’s favor. Most found footage movies have a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes at max. While they’re very short, the pacing is oh so slow, and that’s a problem that The 16th Episode faces. Now, while this movie is creepy to an extent, the horror also has times of poor execution. Some scenes feature some pretty effective gore and violence, but something was missing. A lot of the horror in this movie just felt as if it came out of nowhere.
The 16th Episode has some elements that make a horror movie a good horror movie, but at the same time, it’s riddled with poorly developed characters that don’t make a positive impression, slacky direction that didn’t make the strong impact that it promises, and it also features sluggish pacing. The overall structure of this movie is not as staggering as it should have been because it’s a very underwhelming story and horror movie. This movie had the potential to be a truly great and enjoyable found footage movie. There is something unique and interesting about a found footage movie diving into elements that audiences aren’t used to seeing, but at the end of the day, it fell down due to too many clichés of the horror genre (including an unnecessary amount of jump scares), was fairly predictable, and felt rushed.
In theaters, on VOD, and digital June 28th, 2019.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.