Scott Schirmer's Found, adapted quite faithfully from Todd Rigney's novel of the same name, is, well, a different sort of coming of age tale, one in which we see a young boy come to terms with the world around him, his slightly twisted parents, school bullies, a tenuous relationship with his best and only friend, and the small issue of his older brother being a serial killer who collects the severed heads of his victims in a bowling ball bag in his closet. Marty deals with this by diving into his passions: horror movies, and the graphic novel he's writing.
You would be forgiven for thinking you're watching an '80s after-school special when Found opens. The narration of young Marty (Gavin Brown), the soft focus, and the excellent soundtrack are all disarming for a few minutes before Marty reveals to the audience that he's known and kind of accepted his brother Steve (Ethan Philbeck)'s secret hobby for a while. Over the course of the first half of the film, Schirmer takes care to show all the pressures that pull on Marty from every direction, providing those 'coming of age' moments before the darkness at the fringe of Marty's life starts to seep in.
The entirety of Found hinges on the strength of Brown's portrayal since his narration does a lot of the heavy lifting here, and he more than lives up to the job. There's so much heart behind the Marty character, and his is one I identify with completely. There's a shot of him at the video store, faced with a wall of horror films, that is utterly familiar to me. Marty's tastes don't pull any punches either - he goes for the most violent stuff on the rack — but when the copy of fictional horror 'Headless' is missing, Marty later finds it in his brother's room. As he watches it with his best friend David (Alex Kogin), the film switches gears a bit and puts you right inside the film, which is as gruesome and hardcore as anything from the Troma back catalogue. It then becomes clear that these stomach-turning scenes are the inspiration for Steve's severed head collection.
It's easy to poke holes in Found, a movie whose production seems rife with problems. Schirmer mentioned in the Q&A after the film that they had to recast the roles of the older brother and Marty's best friend as the original actors were forbidden from appearing in the film due to the content. After the credits rolled, it was easy to see why. Coupled with the difficulty in navigating a tiny budget, entirely raised by Schirmer himself and no backers, a lot of filmmakers would've balked at this project, which I feel fairly safe in saying is too extreme for a mainstream audience in its current form.
Recent films like Son of Rambow and I Declare War, though not horror offerings, have pushed the boundaries for films anchored by children. Both are very mature stories that pull no punches when it comes to how children deal with extreme pressures in their lives, from other kids to their own families. Found is truly an extreme movie that is genuinely a bit hard to watch in its second half, but it's laid on top of one of these very mature ideas about how these pressures can pervert the traditional 'coming of age' process. I think that if you can stomach the buckets of blood that Schirmer leaves onscreen here, there's a heartbreakingly-genuine little tale waiting for you at the end.
You can find more information about the Toronto After Dark Film Festival at the official site here.
Photo: Gavin Brown in 'Found'
This review was written by Sachin Hingoo, a freelance writer when he is not working at an office job that is purpose-built for paying the bills while he works as a freelance writer. His writing has appeared on Mcsweeneys.net, the CBC Street Level Blog, Ohmpage.ca, and The Midnight Madness Blog for the Toronto International Film Festival. He has also been featured at Toronto lecture series Trampoline Hall (which is rumored to be excellent). His mutant power is 'feigning interest'. You can read all of his posts here.