Project Eerie Boasts Imaginative Found Footage on a Budget

Not all anthologies are created equally, and when it comes to found footage anthologies, it can be even more arduous to draw an audience. Only a few weeks ago, V/H/S/85 premiered on Shudder, showcasing the talents of heavy-hitting horror directors Natasha Kermani (Lucky), David Bruckner (The Night House), Mike P. Nelson (Wrong Turn), Gigi Saul Guerrero (Satanic Hispanics), and Scott Derickson (The Black Phone). This explosive roster of established directors is something no other film in the series has done, and to be honest, I found the result a little lackluster. As a series, V/H/S introduced us to Radio Silence (Scream V, Ready or Not), Ti West (X, Pearl), Benson & Moorhead (Something in the Dirt), Chloe Okuno (Watcher), and even Hellraiser remake director and horror veteran Bruckner. V/H/S has always thrived on new, creative voices in horror, and V/H/S/85 failed to absorb or thrill me the way some others in the series have. What’s more, segments from a microbudget found footage anthology called Project Eerie have haunted me long after seeing them than any segment in the recent V/H/S entry. 

An envelope marked "Project Eerie"

Like Umberger’s previous found footage series, The Fear Footage, Project Eerie ties together three separated vignettes with an overarching story. It’s kind of an anthology cliché but remains practical for a micro-budgeted feature. Project Eerie begins with two bored teenagers livestreaming their mischief on an unprecedentedly quiet Halloween in 2020. With all their plans canceled due to Covid and deciding routine pumpkin smashing isn’t enough to satiate their appetite for chaos, the two decide to break into a defunct military base. Shut down five years earlier for unknown reasons, the two rifle through left behind paperwork until they come across a disc containing classified information of a supernatural and extraterrestrial nature. Chased out by the local security detail, the boys rush home and begin live streaming the contents of the video to their handful of viewers.  

As far as intros to found footage films go, it certainly catches your attention. However, one criticism I’ve had with anthology films that utilize this method is that when they return to this story at the end, it should encompass something from the content these characters have introduced to us. Otherwise, it often feels like you could inject any short films into the setup, which can cheapen the experience. Project Eerie doesn’t go that route. The bookend story remains harrowing enough to keep it entertaining, and the stories are so out there that trying to tie them into an overarching story could have also felt pandering. Umberger finds excellent balance in this gambit by allowing this tale to find its own satisfying conclusion. 

a young man drives a car past a house decorated for halloween

The government disc serves as a catalyst, priming the audience for the three paranormal tales to come. In the first, a daddy-daughter camping trip goes awry when a creepy ranger appears, and a traumatizing visit to an off-limits beach cuts their trip short. Two hunters bite off more than they can chew in the second story, deciding to become bounty hunters after spotting a wanted man in their deer tracking cam. After apprehending the man for a reward, things go off the rails when a space virus threatens them and everyone on Earth. Finally, the last story chronicles two paranormal TV show personalities as they arrive at the home of an excommunicated Amish man who insists his house is being haunted. The two men documenting the incident for their TV show get more than the occasional wind-blown door and unsettled house creeks and experience a truly terrifying haunting.  

After three VHS-styled horror flicks, Umberger has figured out the recipe for making compelling found-footage films. After receiving a preview of Project Eerie, I went and watched The Fear Footage immediately. These films are full of shocks and surprises that will resonate heavily with fans of the V/H/S series, building genuine terror from the boundless imagination of its filmmaker. Umberger may not have the V/H/S budget, but Project Eerie is packed with roller coaster jump scares and realistic terror in a lo-fi package.

A black and white doorbell camera picks up a man weilding a knife while shading himself under an umbrella

Umberger crafts a gasp-inducing and heart-pounding anthology experience using many subgenre tricks to his advantage, including an array of quick pans, practical effects, and entrancing storytelling. It makes for a delectably freaky found footage experience that’s even more fun with the lights out and the volume up. One of Project Eerie’s stories continues to sit with me for its sheer weirdness and originality, and I almost dropped my jaw when the beach segment in V/H/S/85 had a momentary parallel. Umberger’s ability to go conceptually wide with his storylines produces an authentic, almost flabbergasted state of WTF that is not only entertaining for viewers but keeps seasoned horror fans from guessing what’s going to happen ahead of time.

Project Eerie is sure to have its fans and critics. If you’re not into DIY films made for the love of genre film or prefer the super-gloss production of Hollywood films, Project Eerie may not hit the spot. Some practical effects illuminate the film’s limitations, but some, like myself, will find them endearing movie magic and find a bit of nostalgia for old-school sci-fi and monster movies in the cracks here.

Regardless, Project Eerie shows Umberger’s passion for horror as he perfects his artistry in found footage. It’s a solidly fun flick arriving just in time for Halloween, and I think Umberger has outshone any big-name sequence in V/H/S/85. Check this one out. It might be my favorite found footage horror this year.

Project Eerie arrives on Prime Video on October 26.  

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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