Cole tries new angle on 'found footage' horror with '388 Arletta Ave.' - InfoNews

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Cole tries new angle on 'found footage' horror with '388 Arletta Ave.'

June 13, 2012 - 2:45 PM

TORONTO - The idea of someone being constantly pranked by a mysterious tormentor at first seemed funny to filmmaker Randall Cole.

While musing on possible film ideas he thought the scenario could make for an offbeat comedy, despite the dark undertones.

Until strange things started happening to him.

"Someone was seemingly messing around with us," Cole said Wednesday of bizarre incidents that put him and his partner on edge about five years ago.

"We had some flat tires, like four in a month, and we were getting some weird stuff on the computer and we got some weird mail saying 'You'll find out in a week,' which may have just been some weird (advertising) campaign but on top of the stuff that was going on in our lives it kind of struck me as more horror than comedy."

The strange occurrences inspired his upcoming thriller "388 Arletta Ave.," in which a young couple is terrorized by an unseen stalker.

Nick Stahl ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Carnivale") and Mia Kirshner ("The Vampire Diaries," "Exotica") play James and Amy, a seemingly happy couple whose marital troubles are brought to the fore when a series of unexplained incidents provoke arguments and suspicion: a mysterious mix CD appears in their locked car, an alarm clock goes off in the middle of the night.

Their growing anxiety is captured by tiny video cameras that are hidden without their knowledge throughout their home, their car and even James' office, with an unseen camera operator apparently taking increasing delight in their misery. It's a genre that's become known as "found footage" filmmaking.

The audience sees all this unfold through the strategically placed lenses, thereby sharing the same point of view as the film's sick voyeur. The technique sets "388 Arletta Ave." apart from so many other similar found footage-style films like "Paranormal Activity" and "The Blair Witch Project," says executive producer Vincenzo Natali.

"Those movies are always shot from the point of view of the victims," said Natali, a director whose own sci-fi-tinged thrillers include "Cube" and "Splice."

"This film is shot from the point of view of the person who is victimizing them. In other words, the filmmaker is the psychotic individual who's responsible for creating that footage and I find that to be much more chilling because as an audience we're forced to look through that person's eyes and on some level ... we're commiserating with them, we're enjoying watching James suffer and so that I think that kind of dichotomy is really interesting and much more complex and provocative."

Cole said the pranks in "388 Arletta Ave." grow far more horrific than anything he experienced, although he, too, found a strange mix CD he believed he never made.

Cole's real-life incidents gradually petered out and he never discovered who was behind them. But it did inspire an exploration into the myriad ways in which sophisticated technology has made it ever-harder to maintain privacy.

Cole said making "Arletta" involved about 16 small cameras carefully positioned to grab key scenes in the most effective way: one camera positioned high above the couple's bed highlights their vulnerability, another off-kilter point of view at James' office creates unease, while a limited view out of the attacker's own car offers frustratingly few clues about who is behind all this.

The premise of the film did make for an easier shoot in many ways, Cole allowed.

"It was a weird thing where usually you show up at set and you're going to try and figure out your blocking for the day and where the cameras are going to go and we kind of figured that all out before," he said.

"We had to be ... just living with those decisions, say 'OK, you're going to be limited in some ways, you're not going to get some of the stuff you normally get but you're going to have a different, higher level of reality by those limitations, too.' Once those decisions were made it was an easier way to make a movie, but it was kind of a leap into the void of: 'I hope this works'."

The film comes as fly-on-the-wall entertainment hits new heights on TV with ABC's upcoming "Big Brother"-esque reality series "The Glass House" set to debut Monday. It centres on a group of people who live together in a camera-filled house and compete for $250,000 in a series of challenges. Meanwhile, a Canadian version of "Big Brother" is in the works for the specialty channel Slice.

Natali said "388 Arletta Ave." speaks very much to our time and that the idea that someone is spying on us without our knowledge is a very real possibility.

"I'm continually reminded that my cell phone and my computer — in fact, every device that I use on a daily basis — has a camera in it and I can only assume that no one is looking at me," he said.

"I'm assuming that camera is exclusively for my use but it very well may not be."

"388 Arletta Ave." opens Friday in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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