Reviewbr> "People and animals they just disappear there" - Budi
Leopard conservationist Larry Black and his filmmaker brother Ben are venturing deep into a remote Indonesian jungle in order to capture proof that an endangered species of leopard is living in the area. The Indonesian government have offered to protect the leopards and their habitat if Larry can bring back evidence that the big cats are living there. Along for the ride are Budi, a local Indonesian, and Adi a Government appointed tracker with experience in the region. Hampering the expedition are poachers working in the area and local belief in a forest demon and Sorcery out in the thick jungle.
Larry is a fairly driven individual who pushes the team deeper into the jungle, ignoring warnings from Adi that the region is a bad place. They soon discover evidence that leopards are living in the area, but something even more deadly might also be using the jungle as its private hunting preserve. The leftovers of a leopard would indicate to anyone that they might need a bigger expedition party, but Larry wants to put a tracking collar on a live leopard come hell or high water. The only problem being the expedition has stumbled into something else's hunting ground, and they are now on the menu!
Director/Writer Andrew Traucki has been keeping local and foreign horror fans alike rocking with his Three Colours Red trilogy. In 2007 he delivered the definitive salt water croc movie with the critically acclaimed Black Water, in 2010 he made us afraid to go back into the water with the chilling The Reef, and in 2013 he delivered the good oil on never ever going bush with The Jungle. Across three movies Traucki has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Downunder horror scene, hopefully he will continue to make solid Aussie horror and not be attracted by the lure of sucking tequila out of starlet belly buttons in Hollywood.
Which of course brings us to the subject of this review, 2013's The Jungle, a movie that puts the viewer into the Indonesian jungle and then screams in their face that "there's something out there"! Okay so the movie is shot in found footage style, which is either going to work for a narrative or not, in The Jungle's case its rocking out. We have a limited number of possible victims, Larry, Ben, Budi, and Audi. And it's all filmed in the immediate with cameraman Ben allowing the audience to enter the movie, as you should do in all good found footage outings. While the instant comparison would be to The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Jungle is similar in construction, Traucki is doing a hell of a lot more than simply having three obnoxious Yanks traipse around a forest.
Definitely in my top five found footage flicks list, and edging toward the number one spot
The movie's narrative runs across five or maybe six days that see's Larry and Ben leave a family farm in New South Wales to penetrate deep into the Indonesian jungle. Ben works the camera throughout and pretty much the footage we watch looks to be unedited and is shown warts and all. This of course means the movie has no doubt been skilfully edited to look like unedited footage, there's a real art in achieving that. With found footage you don't want to do too much obvious editing else the audience will be taken out of what is meant to be a true account. On the bright side of the lens, there's none of that shaky cam stuff that makes you wonder if Yanks have never heard of camera stabilisers or are simply born with bad eye and hand coordination.
What Director Traucki does pull off well is getting the audience immersed in his movie. Okay the opening block is a bit slow, showing the brothers at home getting ready to leave and introducing Larry's obsession with leopards, but mercifully it doesn't outstay its welcome. We then progress through the Brothers travelling to the isolated area of Indonesia they hope to discover leopards in. Traucki begins to soften up the audience with the introduction of black magic and in particular a native shaman who can inform them that there is a devil in the forest and sorcery that involves beheadings and heart consumption, no spoilers yo, watch the movie to groove to the cool stuff yourself. We then head into the jungle where Traucki really works his magic, no doubt having gleaned what makes Paranormal Activity work, Traucki will have you at stages staring at the screen waiting for something to happen, when it does you just might need a change of undies. Actually the Director is across the requirements and simply nails the tension that later movies in the PA franchise have missed. Yes you do learn the secret of the jungle, and its one hell of a shock. Got to say I wasn't expecting what comes at the camera late in the movie, you best have a couple of clean pairs of undies at hand.
Now that's normally enough to have me rocking out to a movie but the writer in Traucki isn't finished with a simple movie that screams boo at you. We have this whole undercurrent going down where the local Indonesians are scared of what might be in the jungle and want to get out of Dodge at warp speed. This runs headlong into Larry's obsession and belief in science, there is no devil creature out there Larry reasons even after the expedition come across human remains. Even when Ben pleads for them to vacate the area Larry is so blinkered that he doesn't know when it might be time to call it quits. In fact the whole disaster that eventuates is Larry's fault and I'm not expecting many people to like the character, who comes off as aloof and superior.
Don't worry almost finished here. There's an intensity to this movie that will have you grooving to Traucki's beat, and helping out are a very solid cast. Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo (Budi) and Igusti Budianthika (Adi) are superb as the modern Indonesians who still believe in the teachings of their village. Great performances from both Actors who bring across the fear this area of the jungle has for locals. Equally Rupert Reid (Larry) is simply that character you are going to love to hate, besides being instrumental in leading his team into danger Larry simply won't listen to anyone else. Reid really nails the "picking up the white man's burden" nature of the role.
There's a couple of aspects of the movie that are open to interpretation, being nice there, outright arguements perhaps. Firstly whenever the unknown predator crosses paths with the cameras Larry and Ben use it disrupts the captured images, giving at best a distorted view on film. Now the immediate thought is we are dealing with something supernatural, hence all the reference to sorcery and the like that permutates the movie during the second and third blocks, but there will be other interpretations. Traucki is being tight lipped about this aspect and I'm not about to give out spoilers in the form of me telling you what I thought the creature was. There's also the question of who Ben see's in the bush at one stage, a poacher, a sorcerer, an American tourist who has got lost. Is this the person, or at least parts of the person, Larry and crew run across later in the movie? Have fun with those questions, and feel free to write in if you want my thoughts on what the predator is.
So finally got a chance to catch a screening of The Jungle thanks to our friends over at Monster Pictures, and enjoyed every minute of it. I should point out I'm writing from regional Australia where we don't get the movie festivals the bigger centres seem to have every second week, sucks to be us. Anyways The Jungle is a found footage flick that knows exactly what the medium requires and which doesn't set a foot wrong in achieving what it sets out to achieve. There's a cool atmosphere going down, you expect David Attenborough to appear from behind a tree at any moment, and the tension is really going to get at some viewers as you strain to see what might be in the jungle. Traucki tantalises with glimpses of the predator before unleashing the beast fully in the final five minutes of the movie, excellent build up of anticipation. Full recommendation, is it just me or is Andrew Traucki getting better with every movie he makes?
The Jungle is being released on DVD by Monster Pictures on 16th April 2014 and should be available either through Monster's website or down your local JB HiFi. Rumour has it this little beauty will hit retail shelves for under $20, but don't hold us to that. And yes I will be getting a copy to complete my Three Colours Red trilogy collection.