since The Blair Witch Project became a surprise hit over ten years
ago, there have been periodic similar films made – mostly in the horror
genre, but not always. These films follow a pretty standard template,
passing themselves off as documentaries made by unknowns; ordinary people
who decide to film themselves and eventually get caught up in some horrible
predicament. There is never a cast listing at the beginning of the film to
break the illusion; the actors generally use their own names and all the
filming is done in jumpy, hand held video.
of these have even become surprise hits – Cloverfield took the idea
and went Hollywood with it and Paranormal Activity became a shock
midnight-movie favorite last year, eventually becoming one of the biggest
word-of-mouth hits of the summer.
The latest of these ambiguously real "documentaries"
(and I suspect it was mostly real, though probably massaged quite a bit for
buzz for Catfish suggested this film might be the biggest mind-blower
yet. And, well, not to give up the surprise ending, I think I can simply
say: No, it’s not. In fact, the ending is rather anticlimactic.
That’s a shame, because the promos for the movie led you to believe that
Catfish would be spectacular. It certainly had a good set up. New York
arty type starts a friendship with a prodigy eight-year-old painter who
lives in Michigan. Eventually he befriends her whole family, including the
pretty mom and the scorching hot 19-year-old sister.
sister is a dancer and singer and sometime model and soon she and the New
York guy are sexting and discussing meeting. The guy – who is a
photographer – agrees to film the relationship for his brother and his
partner as a documentary. However, suddenly he realizes some of the
family’s story is kind of fishy. (Imagine that, someone lying on the
Internet!) He and his film crew decide to show up at the Michigan home of
his new cyber-friends.
promises the movie’s coming attractions trailer, you will be terrified and
shocked to see what happens when they arrive at that house.
what is going to happen? The tense viewer is wondering, visions of The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left dancing in
won’t spoil the secret (though perhaps it deserves to be spoiled) however I
will say it’s a pretty severe letdown.
that it’s a horrible storyline or completely uninteresting. Taken out of
the context that this film has been promoted it may have even made for an
interesting little exposé on modern social rituals. However, it
is so not what we were led to believe we were going to experience.
Honestly, after watching it, I can’t help but believe that perhaps it was
indeed supposed to be a normal documentary and after the surprise success of
Paranormal Activity they decided to sexy it up in the advertising to
get the midnight moviegoers.
However, word of mouth cuts both ways and I can’t believe that Catfish’s
reputation will survive the bait-and-switch routine that their promotion
has perpetrated on the audience.
may even be a shame. Had I gone into the movie without the weight of the
false expectations that the movie’s promotion conjured up, I would have
undoubtedly enjoyed the movie a lot more. Instead, I was sitting there
waiting for a gotcha moment that never quite materialized. Well,
there are some gotcha moments, they are just much more muted (and
dare I say, kind of predictable) than we were led to think.
like to go back and revisit Catfish down the line sometime, without
those expectations, to see if it works better for me free of the baggage
that its promotion has thrust upon it. I rather expect the film would be
much better once it is allowed to be true to itself.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: October 1, 2010.