What Is Buried Must Remain Review

What Is Buried Must Remain haunts SCREAMBOX on April 12. A modern ghost story with ancient roots, the timely Lebanese found footage hybrid finds young filmmakers confronted by supernatural forces engaged in a war for the very soul of the land.

I appreciate a good found footage movie, and I’m a pretty easy mark for one.

I don’t know exactly why that is. To be fair, it’s kind of a silly formula. And I wasn’t even part of the frenzy over The Blair Witch Project back in the day; I wouldn’t end up seeing that movie until about eight years or so after it came out.

But typically in found footage flicks, you get some interesting character work and surprisingly good acting from relative unknowns as they deal with frightful new circumstances in their lives and simply refuse to put. The camera. Down.

What Is Buried Must Remain is a entry into the found footage genre, the product of filmmakers from Lebanon. It tells the story of Lara, a charming and charitable girl who works with refugees to help improve their lives. Her two friends, Alaa and Shadi, are refugees whose lives she has worked to make better as they acclimate to their new circumstances.

Near where the three of them live is the Fontaine property, a large mansion formerly owned by a French family and their servants until tragedy struck them all a long time ago. Since then, there have been stories of hauntings by anyone who has visited the condemned building. Armed with two cameras and a phone, the trio of protagonists decide to make a documentary by staying overnight in the house.

While Shadi and Lara are participating for fun, Alaa sees the documentary as a real chance to further escape the life of a refugee. He wants to become a star.

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+The setting of What Is Buried Must Remain is quite impeccable. Whereas many haunted house films look like they are set in a fairly pristine environment that is just spookied up for filming, the house setting in this one very much looks like an old and abandoned home. It’s filthy, covered in garbage, and just a complete mess from top to bottom. I would completely buy it if the creators of the flick told us they just found an actual derelict building and shot inside of it.

+The character of Alaa is easily the most engrossing in the film. Living the life of a refugee, Alaa is desperate to get out of his lot through any lifeline he can find. This leads to his absolute desperation to make the film about the Fontaine mansion and make himself a celebrity of some success.

Unfortunately, this also makes him more susceptible to the ghosts in the mansion as the movie wears on. And this is believable with the character they have established for him early on. He has the most characterization and depth of the three heroes.

-The acting in this one is not particularly solid. The stars (Hamza Zahab, Hassan Alkhlefe, and Asthma Jumaa) are clearly extremely green and trying their best, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Their delivery is uninspired and feels very much like young actors reading lines. They speak directly into the cameras when talking to each other (which is somewhat forgivable in a found footage movie, but still feels awkward here), and their words do not feel natural.

To be fair, the dialogue and direction do very little to assist them and make their jobs any easier. What the script gives them to work with, it would be hard for even seasoned actors make sound fluid. I do think Zahab, Alkhlefe, and Jumaa could grow into better performers than they show here, but for this outing, they have a ways to go.

-This movie’s conceit is that it is a found footage film, but there are swaths of it that are shot through an invisible third party camera that is obviously not controlled by any of the characters. It feels like cheating on the part of the director to be able to film things that leave mysteries uncovered for the audience.

If you are creating a film and shooting it as a found footage exhibition, then you should follow through with that promise. I was put off a bit by the third party camera, and I wish the director had found ways to shoot the film without using it… even if that meant not showing certain characters or events at all.

OVERALL

Unfortunately, I was not a very large fan of What Is Buried Must Remain. While it did a few things right character-wise, it felt like a lot of the production just was not quite fully up to a professional level overall. The acting and directing just weren’t quite ready for a movie that, honestly, looked as good as this one did. With a little more seasoning, they could all put on a much better show, but What Is Buried Must Remain was not it.

★ out of 5

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