From IMDB.com –
Outstanding example of how Super 8mm can be used to shoot the right feature, 20 February 2012
Author: mattstevens from United States
For current youth ‘Super8’ is a movie directed by that guy who gave us LOST and ALIAS. But Super8 is a film format, one that still exists and in some places, thrives, despite the onslaught of the digital world. For the most part it is an amateur format and when used professionally, relegated to music videos or artsy projects. Because of its short shooting time of just two and a half minutes per film cartridge, few have dared to shoot a feature film under such constraints. Almost ten years ago some daredevils succeeded with the psychological piece called SLEEP ALWAYS, but their master was scanned and finished in standard definition.
Writer/Director Scott Di Lalla has pushed the 8mm format into the modern age and delivered a technically impressive feature film debut that also accomplishes something few ultra low budget directors are capable of: delivering a film worth watching.
I had the privilege of seeing I AM ZOZO’s first public screening at the NJ Film Festival, which specializes in showcasing shorts, documentaries and feature length films shot on digital video and super8. The evening did not start off on a high note as the short films presented ranged from snooze inducing to embarrassingly bad. My spirits sunk. It didn’t help matters that the exhibitor had somehow screwed up the settings on their projector, giving us a slightly squished image (which they never fixed).
Thank the Maker that once the feature started, amateur night was over. Beginning with a chilling docu-feel shot of a possession (complete with the 8mm camera sound coming from the speakers), the tone was set for what turned out to be an exceptionally directed little horror film. The ensemble cast of unknowns surprised and rarely veered into obvious acting territory. Their banter seemed fresh and spontaneous and I tended to believe their friendships. Lead actress Kelly McLaren was particularly impressive with a performance that defies her complete lack of acting credits.
The standout sequence is the late at night, ill advised use of a Ouija board and here the filmmakers show more skill than most Hollywood directors. Using long takes, perfect lighting and terrific writing, I AM ZOZO succeeds in forcing you to literally stop breathing as you anticipate what is going to happen and then, with sudden brilliance, feeds you a line that will cause you to laugh out loud and then, moments later, makes you hold your breath yet again. Frankly, I wanted to applaud the filmmakers at the conclusion of that sequence because it was more than I could have hoped for. Low budget films are not supposed to be so good at manipulating their audience.
That is not to say things were perfect. Films have this need to be 90 minutes and I feel that Scott Di Lalla should defy that rule and make some trims. If he were to lose just five or six minutes of extraneous footage I believe he would find the pacing improved and a wider audience available. The ending is also quite obscure and I wonder what a Harvey Weinstein would do with it were he to get his hands on the negative (of course, today they use digital intermediates, but I’ll get to that in a minute).
Remember, I give this film an 8 out of 10. I need to mention the flaws, which are limited. Few films are perfect, but let’s also understand that few films are this good. How many Hollywood films have you seen in recent years that deserve such high marks?
Technically, the choice of filming in 8mm was certified brilliance. I shoot with super8 all the time and actually own the same camera ‘I AM ZOZO’ was shot with. The Canon 1014 XL-S is one of the three or four best super8’s ever made, but it’s flaw is going soft at low light. Major kudos need to go to Scott and his camera crew for somehow using Kodak’s lower speed (and therefore, lower grain) Vision3 200T stock and finding the lighting sweet spot to give them maximum sharpness. At times only candles or a flashlight were used for illumination and yet the image retained sharpness and detail. This is due to the incredible improvements in film stocks and also the ability to scan 8mm negatives at High Definition (or even 2k), retaining every single ounce of detail in the image. When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell shot ‘WITHIN THE WOODS’ on 8mm, they attempted to blow it up to 16mm and found the grain so obvious, the image was unwatchable. How times and technology has changed. Super8 is now so good that it resembles 16mm stocks of the 60’s and 70’s.
In a day when DSLR’s and their ultra clean look are all the rage, some grainy super8 is here to show you what horror films are supposed to look like. The look of a film establishes a tone and had the filmmakers opted to shoot on a DSLR (and that would have saved them money) I believe ‘I AM ZOZO’ would be incapable of standing out from the crowd of low budget horror films.
My hope for these guys is they get picked up by a smaller studio or even HDNet. This film deserves to be seen. And super8 deserves a second look by anyone out there hoping to create something special on film.