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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Recovered Footage filmmaking is a cheap form of storytelling, and by
"cheap" I don't mean inexpensive. The very conventions of the genre act
as excuses for banal dialog, nondescript performances, generally poor
production values and spotty plotting. Since the movie is supposedly
made up of actual video shot by normal people, many of the standards on
which you would judge a regular film are inapplicable. How can you say
the acting is lacking, the narrative is weak or the pacing is off when
those features could very well be deliberate attempts to mirror the
mundane world of real people and their real video cameras? You have to
grade these kind of productions mostly on what they're trying to do
with the genre and how well they do it. I'd give Shooting April just
barely passing marks in both areas.
Three young jackasses named Truman, Weasel and Doug (Matthew Prater, Eric Fagundes and Darius Safavi), who live together without any apparent means of income, spend all of their time recording themselves doing all sorts of shenanigans. From getting girls to expose themselves to crazy stunts to covertly filming Truman banging a chick, it all gets captured and posted to their website. Then one day after a party, Truman gets the idea of videotaping himself nailing a girl named April (Rachel Seiferth) who Weasel happens to like. He bets his friends $100 he screws her while they tape it from the closet. April wants to take things slow, though, and shuts him down. The embarrassed Truman then bets his gloating buddies double or nothing that he'll bag April the next time, though it turns out that Truman has a lot more planned than some boorish high jinks.
Now, true crime recovered footage has been done before and done excellently by the folks who made Video X, but there's certainly room for more stuff like that and Shooting April isn't a bad addition. The first half of it does a nice job establishing the lifestyle of its three main characters and clearly defines the relationship between alpha male Truman and beta male Weasel. It's got some gratuitous nudity and an outstanding scene where someone gets lit on fire and runs through a house. It all comes off like a halfway decent version of the sort of stuff you can find bored and reckless young people doing online. Then April walks into the story halfway through and the movie focuses in on Truman, Weasel and the bet.
That's where the main problem with this film comes up and I can't explain it without spoiling a major part of Shooting April, so avert your eyes now if you wish. Truman lures April up to a cabin in the woods to have Weasel film them having sex. When she again declines, he rapes her and bludgeons her with a baseball bat. The problem is that the movie does a terrible job building up to and foreshadowing that event. When you try to take a story in a shocking direction, you want to surprise the audience but you also want them to accept what happens as fitting within the confines of the story you're telling them. You have to set up certain actions and character traits early on so when the shocking moment occurs, it instantly snaps into place with what has come before like the lost piece of a puzzle. You want the audience to say "I never saw that coming" and not "That doesn't make any sense".
Truman's assault of April doesn't make any sense. He's established as someone who will take insane risks himself but not as someone capable of inflicting harm on others. Instead of wasting time showing the viewer that Truman has a habit of banging chicks that Weasel likes, the film needed to show us Truman having disproportionate anger at being rejected and it particularly needed to give us examples of the sort of cold blooded calculation that Truman displays after he assaults April.
Now, the stuff that follows the attack is again okay and the filmmakers simulate the camera having video problems as it gets knocked around at the end to great effect. I can't criticize this movie too much for only getting one thing wrong, even if it's a big thing and they got it quite wrong, but the rest they get right isn't right enough to completely overcome that one huge flaw. Shooting April is a good effort that went off target. I can't recommend it but neither would I discourage anyone from watching it.
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