The Fear Footage: 3AM (2021) Review
The Fear Footage: 3AM is the conclusion of the trilogy begun in 2018 with The Fear Footage and continued in 2020s The Fear Footage 2: Curse of the Tape. Those of you who regularly read my reviews know I’m not a great fan of found footage films, but these two creeped me right out. Can writer/director Ricky Umberger manage to wrap the saga up with the same intensity?
YouTube urban explorer Dennis the Explorer is about to try something different. Rather than going to an abandoned building, he’s going to check out Dark Bluff, the town where the events of the first two Fear Footage tapes occurred. Arriving there, he finds a house with new mail in the mailbox, but a totally trashed and collapsing interior. Next, he sees several vaults for coffins sitting by the side of the road. Not seeing any people, he knocks on the door of a house, and it swings open. It looks like somebody left in a hurry, and not long ago.
Finding nothing else to explore, Dennis decides to check out a nearby sawmill, only to find the road he came into town on is now a dead end.
Despite starting off in broad daylight, The Fear Footage: 3AM manages to build a nice bit of unease in its opening act. The vaults at the side of the road look like something that was actually just there, lending a weird authenticity to things. The hastily abandoned houses were like dry land versions of the Marie Celeste. Or Silent Hill without the smoke.
But, as in any good horror film, the really scary stuff happens at night. The Fear Footage: 3AM is no exception. If the day scenes were unsettling, what happens at night had me repeatedly jumping. Umberger is a master at using darkness and sound to put the viewer on edge before pulling the trigger on a scare.
I don’t want to give much more of the plot away, because while it doesn’t entirely explain what is going on in Dark Bluff, it does drop some big clues. Suffice it to say that there’s plenty of the reality bending geography and physics defying house layouts that made the first two so effective. Along with a couple of new twists that help keep it from seeming repetitive.
You can follow The Fear Footage: 3AM without having seen the previous two films. However, being able to pick up on some of the cues from them will definitely add to your enjoyment and to the film’s effectiveness. Plus, they’re both films that are worth seeing anyway.
On the minus side, Daniel has a fairly limited vocabulary. Hearing him say “Hello”, “Who’s there?” and “What do you want?” over and over got tedious. A few different phrasings would have been nice. There are also a couple of shots I wondered how/why he filmed. But that’s a near universal issue with found footage films.
The Fear Footage 3AM is a genuinely terrifying conclusion to the trilogy. I jumped repeatedly during it and was looking over my shoulder for the rest of the night. I’m not sure what Ricky Umberger has planned for his next project, but I’ll be waiting to check it out.
There’s no official release date for The Fear Footage: 3AM at this point. Indeed, the teaser trailer is the only promotional material that’s been dropped, I had to take screen grabs for this review. You can keep an eye on the film’s Facebook page and website for an announcement.