Incident at Montauk (2019) is a found footage film written, directed, and starring Owen Mulligan. The film takes the form of a documentary filmed by a man obsessed with learning the truth after witnessing what he believes to be a UFO sighting days earlier in Montauk, New York.
Director Owen Mulligan is a self-taught filmmaker. Prior to Incident at Montauk (2019), he wrote and directed eleven short films, including Night of the Vampire (2012), which won an award at the Fear Fete Film Festival. Incident at Montauk (2019) is director Owen Mulligan’s feature film directorial debut.
The film opens with Jed Logan (played by director Owen Mulligan), standing in the dead of night beside his car, parked on the shoulder of a dark, deserted road in the suburbs of Long Island, New York. He searches the night sky eagerly waiting for something to happen. The previous evening, Jed witnessed a UFO sighting in the same location and hopes the unidentified flying object makes a second appearance. This time, he plans on capturing proof using a video camera which he seldom turns off in case something happens.
Jed’s search for answers takes him to Camp Hero, a now-abandoned air force station in Montauk, New York, which he believes is linked to the UFO sighting. His quest quickly spirals into an obsession that unearths a government conspiracy and leads him down a path from which there is no turning back. Will Jed find the proof he seeks?—the footage reveals the truth.
Found Footage Cinematography
Incident at Montauk (2019) was presented as having been filmed with three types of in-universe cameras: a camcorder and webcam used by the main protagonist, and a surveillance camera introduced later in the story. Overall, director Owen Mulligan commendably films what comes across as realistic, organically filmed first-person video.
Of particular note, director Owen Mulligan makes exceptional use of night vision in Incident at Montauk (2019)—in fact, approximately half of the film is shot in night vision. To his credit, director Owen Mulligan’s execution of this cinematic technique does not come across as overused, gimmicky, or gratuitous, but rather flows naturally within the context of the story, which takes place mostly outdoors at night. Further, viewers will likely find the use of night vision in this film far more palatable and equally less distracting than watching footage shot in the dark (in daytime mode) using a flashlight or camera spotlight as a light source.
As explained in the opening frames of Incident at Montauk (2019), character Jed Logan shot all of the footage in Incident at Montauk (2019) as a series of video logs to document his investigation into Camp Hero, an abandoned air force station in Montauk, New York. To this end, the first third of Incident at Montauk (2019) consists of footage where Jed Logan sets the stage for the mission he is about to embark on. These scenes include a variety of footage filmed in Jed Logan’s home, hotel room, car, and the Camp Hero public grounds he surveils during the day.
This early footage contains an interesting mix of handheld footage of Jed Logan’s computer monitor, where he walks would-be viewers through Google Maps satellite images of Camp Hero, and a variety of UFO and government conspiracy websites pertaining to the alleged black-ops projects taking place at Camp Hero.
The filming reason is often the determining factor as to whether a found footage film maintains plausible deniability. For Incident at Montauk (2019), director Owen Mulligan does a good job providing valid filming reasons spanning most of the story.
Fueled by his obsession from a UFO encounter days earlier, character Jed Logan makes a conscious decision to film his entire investigation as a documentary. This filming reason provides a (for the most part) solid justification explaining most of the recovered footage that was “leaked online.”
As touched on earlier, the scenes filmed in Jed Logan’s home and hotel room were shot for the sole purpose of laying out (for viewers) the ample research he conducted into the history of Camp Hero, the mysterious decommissioned air force station believed to be at the heart of the UFO sighting. These scenes include headshots of the protagonist as he presents his narrative and screenshots of Google Maps and other websites which offer supporting evidence backing Jed Logan’s claims. Filmed interviews with a conspiracy theorist familiar with Camp Hero further support Jed Logan’s theories. Jed Logan’s reason for filming and saving all of this footage was clearly intended to put together a body of evidence to expose the truth behind Camp Hero.
The second two-thirds of Incident at Montauk (2019) were filmed by Jed Logan with the intent of documenting his exploration of the now-closed air force station, which he surveils during the day and covertly breaks into at night.
We applaud director Owen Mulligan for one particularly well-executed scene in the final third of Incident at Montauk (2019) where the protagonist explores Camp Hero at night and comes across several security guards patrolling the grounds. Jed Logan sees the glow of their flashlights off in the distance and hears radio chatter indicating that they might be aware of his presence. For these scenes, Jed Logan relies entirely on night vision to navigate the grounds as he wants to avoid being spotted by his would-be pursuers.
Found Footage Purity
For the most part, the cinematography, filming reasons and acting support the perceived reality Incident at Montauk (2019) sets out to achieve. One question that often comes to mind in found footage films is how (and by whom) recovered raw video is edited to a polished feature film length film that is later presented to viewers. Director Owen Mulligan addresses this point in the opening moments of the film through on-screen text which reads, “the following was compiled from the video logs of Jed Logan and other footage that was leaked online, the source of the leak remains unknown.”
Further bolstering the found footage purity is the infusion of externally referencable material, in particular, the Google Maps images of Camp Hero and website describing the actual mythos behind the conspiracy of the presumably closed air force station. Found footage fans interested in exploring the mythos of Camp Hero need to look no further than opening Google Maps in their browser and searching for Camp Hero.
We took the liberty of providing the Google Maps link for you to check out—click here to see Camp Hero.
Director Owen Mulligan does a good job playing the relentlessly dour Jed Logan, a man obsessed with unearthing the truth behind his life-altering UFO sighting and its relationship with the mysterious Camp Hero air force station. Michael Ian Sugrue plays the conspiracy theorist interviewed by Jed Logan early in the film. Unfortunately, Michael Ian Sugrue’s performance comes across as forced and feels out of place in a film that works hard to feel uniquely organic from end-to-end.
Found footage films are far more effective when the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. To this end, Incident at Montauk (2019) is based on the actual mythos of what is commonly known as the Montauk Project. As explained in Wikipedia, “The Montauk Project is a conspiracy theory that alleges there were a series of secret United States government projects conducted at Camp Hero or Montauk Air Force Station on Montauk, Long Island, for the purpose of developing psychological warfare techniques and exotic research including time travel.” The stories of the Montauk Project date back to the early 1980s. “According to UFO researcher Jacques Vallée, the Montauk Experiment stories seem to have originated with the account of Preston Nichols,” who claims to have been repeatedly abducted and forced to participate in experiments at Camp Hero against his will (Wikipedia, Montauk Project).
At Found Footage Critic, we take pride in fully immersing ourselves in every film reviewed, this includes exploring external websites (such as the Google Maps references described earlier) and other material presented on-screen. Early in Incident at Montauk (2019), character Jed Logan films himself scrolling through a Camp Hero conspiracy website on his PC. Leaving no stone unturned, this reviewer paused the film to read the contents of the website screenshots. As expected, the website described much of the actual mythos behind Camp Hero and the alleged activities taking place within.
Incident at Montauk (2019) is not the first film to delve into the subject matter of the Montauk Project. As “the Netflix TV series Stranger Things was allegedly inspired by the Montauk Project, and at one time Montauk was used as its working title.” (Wikipedia, Montauk Project).
Director Owen Mulligan’s adaptation of the Montauk Project is a reimagining of certain aspects of the mythos, focusing on UFO sightings and the alleged adaptation of alien technology. He is cited as saying, “I designed Incident at Montauk to be as real as possible as a found footage film, which meant shooting most of the scenes on location and entirely without a crew. The movie is based on the dark legends surrounding the Camp Hero air force [station] located at the eastern tip of Long Island. From mind control experiments to psychic warfare and nefarious aliens, I became obsessed with the subject matter and knew I had to tell a story about it. The only thing I didn’t realize was that the legends may actually be true.”
Coincidentally, this reviewer (yes, Found Footage Critic himself) grew up on Long Island, New York, and lived an approximate 90-minute drive from Camp Hero and where Incident at Montauk (2019) was filmed. I’ve since moved from Long Island but had I been there now, I most assuredly would have invested half-a-day to drive out to the fabled Camp Hero to explore.
For those fans interested in diving deeper into the mythos of the film, take a closer look at Camp Hero in Google Maps. Fans can explore the satellite images of the area just as on-screen character Jed Logan does on-screen. The infusion of these types of details makes Incident at Montauk (2019) that much more fun and engaging. Also interesting is the on-screen website, which viewers can pause and take the time to read if they feel so inclined.
As fun as the wealth of details is to dig into and explore, Incident at Montauk (2019) is not without challenges. The film presents as realistic, but unfortunately has pacing issues that may impact viewer engagement. The story has moments of tension and revelation, but these are far and few between, which again, is likely to impact the enjoyment of Incident at Montauk (2019) for some viewers. However, if you are a found footage fan, interested in alien conspiracy theories, and want to delve into the Montauk Project, then take the time to watch Incident at Montauk (2019).