Copy provided for review
In the past when I’ve talked about found footage films, the ones I’ve enjoyed have actually used the medium well to help intensify the scares while also informing the story itself. Host is my go-to example for the best way to do this, its format dictated how things unfolded and allowed them to use the technology to play with the audience. Even in the slow moments, the little tricks that the film used kept building a strange tension. Infrared definitely has a few more of those slow moments, but the moments that work really create something fascinating.
Infrared takes on the style of a classic paranormal researcher show, complete with a group of probable charlatans going around a supposedly haunted building late at night and jumping at every loud noise. The host of this show is Wes (Jesse Janzen), an energetic guy who just wants to put on the best show he possibly can and so he gets into a legendary haunted school with the aid of the owner Geoff (Greg Sestero). Wes brings along his team, including his sister Izzy (Leah Finity), to investigate the school and soon learns that there’s more to the history of this place than he realised.
To say Infrared commits to the conceit that it’s a bunch of footage shot for a TV pilot would be an understatement, from the very start this film completely buys into its central idea and never drops it even when the time comes to roll credits. It completely buys into being an unreleased pilot for this series called Infrared, so named because of the kind of camera that is used to see the spirits in question. If you ever watched any of those kinds of shows, this will feel kind of familiar to you and it uses that to its advantage.
Without using as many loud noises as one might expect, the film builds tension slowly just by the use of the main location of this abandoned school. The darkness seems to make the walls come in even closer, every shadow seems to move in strange ways so that when there is something hiding in the background it takes you a second to notice it. It takes its time, creating this atmosphere that it can then gleefully blow up in the final act when they really make the best use of the infrared idea.
Infrared actually uses the elements of the film itself to create some serious discomfort, such as the sound heavily distorting whenever there’s a presence nearby or some weird artifacts that come and go along with that sound. You slowly start to associate that kind of thing with the spirits that are making things happen around the school which, in turn, makes you feel uneasy any time you notice that happening. It’s a good creative use of the medium that really helps with the tension.
There’s also a lot of interesting character work, largely between Wes and Izzy who have been estranged for a while and this is the first time they’re really working together and you can see that bond building between them. You can see their dynamic and you root for them, sure Wes is a little much (and really reads like a charlatan at times) but there’s something about these two that makes you want to like them.
Honestly, the biggest flaw in the film is, kinda sadly, Geoff. It might just be that because Greg Sestero has such a famous role in an infamous movie that it’s hard to resist the urge to say “Oh hi Mark” when you see him, not aided by how over the top he goes in the end scene that it feels like he’s in a different movie. It’s still strangely fascinating, he’s created this weird character that just wants to give the people he let into the school a good show, but it is insanely hard to resist making The Room references based on what he’s doing in his performance. It’s just very hard to take him as seriously as were clearly meant to.
There’s also a fair amount of downtime where the tension is building slowly but there are no scares or at least none that are as effective as they could be. There are some absolute banger jump scares at the end (One, in particular, involving the infrared camera turning on had me jumping out of my seat) but it would be nice to see a little more a little earlier to really get the blood pumping.
For what it is, Infrared is an indie found footage film with a lot to offer. Its commitment to the bit and its atmosphere alone will impress and have you sticking around to the nutso climax. There’s an undeniable charm here, an unnerving creepy charm that has me really glad I am nowhere near any abandoned buildings, but an undeniable charm nonetheless.