I’m fully aware that a large population of moviegoers are done with the found footage genre, but I am not one of those people. When done well like modern entries Blair Witch, As Above So Below, Unfriended: Dark Web and last year’s Host, they can be extremely effective and stand out amongst other horror releases during its time. Within the found footage genre, there’s also this sub category of laptop centred stories as shown in Host and Unfriended that sort of make it a more unique and involved experience. When it comes to these films I actually have to admit that I prefer setting up my computer in bed, turning off all the lights and enjoying them on the small screen. That’s actually exactly what I did for the newest entry in found footage, Safer At Home.
Directed by Will Wernick who also made last year’s very underrated horror thriller Follow Me, Safer At Home follows a group of friends who gather over an online video chat for a games night since they’re stuck inside two years into the pandemic. Seeing as they were supposed to be partying it up in Las Vegas by this date, they decide to take ecstasy and have a wild night inside. Unfortunately things derail quickly due to an uncomfortably strong high and boiling tensions between relationships.
The thing with following your characters through the screen of their computers is that it only works if they’re likeable. It’s hard to sit through an hour and a half of chaos through a computer when you don’t even care to see what happens to them, it lowers the stakes far too much. Especially considering these films usually only take place in one location. As for this group of friends, I actually enjoyed them for the most part. But when things begin to spiral as one of the group members is killed after falling back and hitting their head, it’s clear who the main character of the group is, and they’re the one that makes it incredibly hard to root for. They’re just so stupid and it becomes so frustrating to watch them make mistake after mistake, trying to basically cover up an accident that looks like murder.
The film starts off pretty strong too. We establish our friend group, their inside jokes, who’s closest to who and who has some beef; but the second half is basically five friends watching their other friend run around outside from the police. That literally sums up the second half of the film. There’s no suspense for the other characters, no drama, no stakes, just them watching. You begin to lose interest really quickly once this sets in because what’s stopping you from fast forwarding to the end to see the outcome? I know that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve seen Wernick’s other films and he’s great with unpredictability, suspense and thrilling sequences – seriously check out Follow Me if you haven’t seen it. But this just completely lost steam as it went on and on. Luckily for us, he knows how to craft great slap in the face endings. This was no exception.
All around, Safer At Home isn’t great but it’s good enough. The acting is fine and the story is alright, it starts out strong and I quite enjoyed the ending. I respect a lot of filmmakers during this time who are at least even attempting to give us new content and safe filming restrictions, but I’m sort of over any pandemic stories.