Insane is a new found footage horror film from Massimiliano (“Max”) Cerchi. His latest horror creation concerns a couple (played by real-life couple Vincent Rivera and new-comer Marcella Rodriquez), who move into a beautiful hillside mansion and discover dark secrets haunting the property, including, no spoiler here, an insane clown that first appears in the corners of the footage, and that eventually takes control of Rivera’s sanity.
Cerchi is no stranger to horror films, having produced and directed favorites Hellbilly (2003) and Carnage Road: The Legend Of Quiltface (2000), among others, but this is his first film using found footage. When the trailer for Insane was posted late last year it garnered a lot of interest, especially for the effective imagery of that clown captured in fleeting glimpses in the found footage.
We had the opportunity to interview Max live on episode #59 of the Found Footage Files Podcast and published a written article based on that interview. Cerchi graciously provided Found Footage Critic with a pre-release screener of Insane to review.
Insane opens with the couple Michael and Sarah moving into their new house, a large and remote estate in the beautiful and scenic country of Columbia, and soon find out there’s a previous history of murders that the real estate agent failed to reveal. Ten years ago an escaped patient from a nearby asylum killed the owner. The couple is told that the facility was subsequently closed for years, so “there are no more psychos running around.” This being a horror film, however, we know how that’s going to turn out.
Michael and Sarah’s neighbor Davis (Terry G. Reed) also offers information about how the infamous house was sold to a new owner who came to a equally horrific demise.
Michael installs surveillance cameras and starts capturing odd images, which he increasingly becomes obsessed with.
Deciding to keep their new home despite its history, Michael continues filming everything in an effort to document his ongoing investigation on the troubled history of the property, but soon Sarah starts worrying about his obsession with filming. After Michael finds a jack-in-the-box, apparently left by the former tenants, the footage starts to show video glitches with flashes of… the murders? As Michael’s fixation with the home’s infamous history grows, he installs surveillance cameras and starts capturing odd images, which he increasingly becomes obsessed with.
Found Footage Purity
Insane is not pure found footage in the traditional sense as there are moments where the evil clown is only visible to Michael, but when the footage is replayed for Sarah and his neighbor, the clown is not on the recorded video. This interesting approach where the camera (or a character) sees something that the other characters in the film aren’t able to see is also used in Skew (2011), another hybrid found footage film. Insane is shot in the same vein as Skew (2011), as supernatural elements are not captured on the actual found footage. The film suggests that the video glitches and supernatural elements are actually a figment of Michael’s imagination. An alternative explanation is that these events are in fact real, but are only presented to Michael. In either case, these strange happenings are not actually captured to video.
There is also one particular scene later in the film where Michael is reviewing footage with Sarah and his neighbor. In this scene Michael is sitting on the floor in center-frame holding a jack-in-the-box and he claims there’s someone else in the room with him. The handheld video camera that is trained on Michael is clearly shifting positions and changing vantage points, indicating that someone else is in the room with him shooting the footage. The characters watching this footage don’t believe anyone else is in the room with him, yet the evidence is right in front of them. Inconsistencies like these undermine the found footage conceit of the film.
Found Footage Reason
The found footage reason used in Insane is generally effective. Early in the film, Michael states matter-of-factly that he wants to film everything to document his research on his home’s sordid history. Since he only has access to a single handheld camera at this point in the film, he either holds the camera, or places it on the table so everyone in the room is in-frame during conversations. While this approach technically works, the overuse of static shots early in the film feels somewhat contrived and overly orchestrated – more often than not, Michael’s handheld video camera is placed exactly where it needs to be in order to perfectly frame all of the characters, relevant conversation, and props. When it comes to found footage, imperfect or flawed cinematography makes for a more genuine final product.
The filming reason improves significantly later in the film when Michael installs surveillance cameras, allowing for extra coverage similar to the Paranormal Activity films. This method of capturing footage across multiple rooms is much more organic and follows the modern approach of found footage cinematography.
The great-looking evil clown apparition (played by Greg Chandler Maness) is underused, appearing only in brief flashes until the final 10 minutes of the film. He becomes more “visible” then, at least to Michael. The potential for this creepy character isn’t fully realized, and a more poignant role in the film would have benefited the final product.
The leads are played by real-life couple Vincent Rivera and Marcella Rodriquez, and they have an on-camera chemistry that works for the film. Since Rivera is behind the camera for a good part of the film, Rodriquez is on camera most often and she is certainly easy on the eyes. Rivera is believable as the increasingly obsessed filmmaker.
Anthony Werley, the film’s writer, plays the shady real estate agent, but plays the role a little too broadly and comedic. He tries to convince Michael the previous murders are nothing to worry about, which of course, soon turns out to be no laughing matter.
As mentioned earlier, Greg Chandler Maness as the clown has way too little screen time to really access his performance. He’s effective for the scenes he’s in, but found myself wanting more of this creepy character.
Don’t stop Insane after the credits start rolling as Cerchi includes several minutes of outtakes for fan service, even making a brief appearance himself.