I am cautious of any low budget movie with “incident”, “project”, “experiment” or “encounter” in the title and so THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT was an immediate red flag, and were it not for an appealing poster I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought... but I'm glad that I did. The film presented a fresh take on the genre (well, fresher anyway) and my inherent snobbery was exposed.
A video game designer, Matthew, loses his eye in a horrific car accident, and during his recovery he designs a hi-def micro-camera inside a prosthetic eyeball. Naturally this allows him to record everything his missing eye would have seen. It's a stupid idea when you stop and think about it, but for the sake of something different within the genre, it's an easy idiocy to ignore. A year later Matthew and his friends spend a weekend at a luxurious cabin where they witness a meteorite crash in the nearby woods. Naturally they venture out into the darkness to investigate and find themselves being hunted by an alien.
As with almost every entry in the found-footage genre, THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT is another Blair Witch-inspired thriller that exploits every trick in the trade and rehashes the same concept. But what it offers in addition to the usual gimmickry is an intriguing first person point-of-view perspective, and an accomplished use of special effects. The concept of some guy with a camera-eye is dumb, but it nevertheless gives this story an alternative focal point that provides the filmmaker an excuse to reduce his use of hand-held 'shaky-cam' (which is a welcome point of difference).
The expected jump-scares are riddled throughout the movie, and they are executed with precision. But director (and lead actor) Matheiue Ratthe also uses a slow suspense method of terror, which gives his film a much needed advantage over other entries in the genre. For example, the audience is well aware of the lurking figure behind. We see those terrifying alien hands rising up above the character's shoulders... and we are well ahead of the poor fools on screen. And this was, for me, a refreshing tweak on the overdone tropes of so many movies before it.
The acting leaves a lot to be desired, and there isn't a convincing performance to be seen. A lot of the rules of the found-footage genre have also been abandoned (intentionally, or not?) which detracts from what is otherwise a skilful and impressive little film. But... but but but... given the fact that THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT is a first time feature length film from an emerging independent filmmaker, it's an impressive and engaging chiller. The special effects are the real saving grace and I would recommend the movie for all inspiring filmmakers on how to get bang-for-buck.