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First Look Review - THE LOST FOOTAGE OF LEAH SULLIVAN

the lost footage of leah sullivan review
A student investigates a massacre that occurred in her hometown.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Burt Grinstead, Paul Odgren, Anna Stromberg

Starring: Jimmy Driscoll, Burt Grinstead, Maureen Keiller, David Nash, Anna Stromberg

the lost footage of leah sullivan poster




Vibrant and personable journalism student Leah Sullivan is investigating the cold case Mulcahy Massacre, which occurred in her hometown years prior. The title card at the opening of this film posits that what follows is unedited footage taken from the memory card of Leah’s camera.

At the beginning, Leah is all smiles and informal interviews with her own family members and friends, who may offer some insight into the Mulcahy family, the murders themselves and the state of the town (Lutton, Massachusetts) where the massacre occurred.

the lost footage of leah sullivan review

The culture of Lutton permeates the film; after the massacre, in which four family members were butchered, their home lay abandoned for 30 years not out of any sense of propriety but because, according to her blast-from-the-past friend policeman Patrick, the county didn’t want to pay to tear it down.

She interviews people who knew them, the man who found the bodies, various townsfolk; she talks about the legends that built up around the infamous murders and tries to disprove the few theories that had been bandied about over the years.

When photos of the murders are shown they are graphic and realistic - very effective - while the stories of each family member’s death is haunting and strangely brutal.

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When it becomes clear that there is a possible coverup and that the victims are larger in number than originally thought, Leah decides to follow the story all the way, and she is drawn ever closer to a final truth that she may not survive.

Speaking directly to camera at all times as she films her documentary investigating this case, we get to know Leah through the presentation; the outtakes (this is supposed to be unedited after all) and the chats between official footage make her an even more rounded character. The strong performance from Anna Stromberg just adds more depth and realism to Leah.

the lost footage of leah sullivan review

The filmmakers have done a great job of creating a character who you can believe in; Leah feels like someone I could know, her aunt feels like my aunt, her house could be the house I grew up in. It’s these kinds of relatable situations and people that lend themselves so well to found footage and make the most of one of the creepier genres of horror.

The entire cast is great here, not a lemon in the bunch with Stromberg and Burt Grinstead as Patrick doing the majority of the heavy lifting and proving more than up for the task. He is just as likable as she is, and another very well rounded character.

It's even more astounding that the pair were able to give such solid performances given that they were also responsible for the direction (Grinstead) and screenplay (Stromberg with Rob Runyeon).

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The script is convincing; I liked that there are genuinely reasonable discussions here, when Patrick warns her that there is a proper way to investigate it and that she should leave this all to the police, you are right there with him. It's subtle when it needs to be but with enough detail to keep you intrigued, even with a sense of dread in your belly.

There’s a wry sense of humour throughout the film that makes it even easier to connect with the amiable people you see onscreen. I laughed more than expected.

the lost footage of leah sullivan review

A strong entry into the found footage genre from a director who understands the power of a black screen, the power of what you hear. Some jump scares have been done before but I’ll give them a pass as they still worked; the creep factor was well executed overall.

The team of Stromberg and Grinstead is clearly a powerhouse one, with each of them excelling in both acting and film-making. Personally, I can’t wait to watch their next project.

The Lost Footage of Leah Sullivan is in UK/ROI cinemas December 11th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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