The year was 1999 and, while my father was swept more and more into Morpheus’ arms beside me, my life was being changed. Despite my tired old dad’s snores beside me (nothing to do with the film, he was exhausted), The Blair Witch Project blew my mind in many ways. First, it was terrifying in its own right. But it also showed me two things that were possible, that I hadn’t considered before: a Hispanic filmmaker could make a film this seminal, and it could be done on a tighter budget than most productions. These things eventually led me to become a filmmaker myself, and I have been infected by the found footage bug ever since.
I have seen most every single found footage film out there. That means that, for the most part, I can see what’s coming, and I can probably make a pretty fair assumption about the film’s shortcomings and highlights. Even more predictable are the themes these films touch on: most focus on the scares. Which is fine, as most are horror films. So, when I was browsing the web at 2am the other day (as you do), and came across “Victor’s History” on a list of films to watch, I was immediately intrigued. Here was a film that based its premise, not on scares, but on social issues.
A found footage film focused on social issues? Could anything possibly ever get made more tailored to my interests?
Without getting too deep into it, “Victor’s History” is the story of a man who wants to make a film about his late father, and all the great things he accomplished while on this Earth. And while Vic’s dad (also called Victor) certainly did a lot of great things, the more footage you see, the more obvious it is that Victor Sr. also got up to some unsavory business.
With a plot that relies heavily on themes of colonization, racism, social equality and abuse, “Victor’s History” succeeds in an area that many other films within the genre (and indeed outside of it) don’t: it delivers a message. A message that should be told, and that resonates on millions of people who are part of societies where those themes are fundamental to their history, and sometimes their present.
Another major plus is the diverse cast. Despite the film being carried on the shoulders of just 3 characters, they are all completely different, with different motivations, backgrounds, ethnicity, religions and goals. While mainstream films are still a bit behind on representation and diversity in their cast and crew, the makers of “Victor’s History” rip that notion out of the handbook and deliver a complex, multi-layered and socially charged environment largely due to the cast. A cast which, by the way, deliver acting chops in spades.
Is there any negatives, then, to this great film? Sadly, yes.
Despite a powerful message and fantastic cast, the plot itself is a bit confusing at times. There were a few occasions where I would see the characters in situations that had not been previously set up, so I had to fill in the blanks as to how they got there. It’s not enough to ruin the film by any stretch, but it is a black spot in an otherwise mostly fantastic endeavor.
From a technical point of view, the film neither impresses nor disappoints, but the former is much harder to achieve than the latter when talking about found footage. While the photography is decent and the sound is crisp and clear, if unremarkable, the filmmakers did not fall into the traps that many before them have done. I have seen so many independent found footage films where jump scares and camcorder overlays abound, that if I see just one more flickering “REC” light (knowing full well it never shows up in the final footage in real life), I’ll snap. None of that here, though: I’m happy to report that, while somewhat uninspired, the technical aspects of this film do nothing to break the suspension of disbelief.
I feel like “Victor’s History” is all about the message, though, and on that front, the film delivers on my expectations tenfold. Don’t get me wrong: it has genuine chills and the acting is absolutely brilliant. But many films share those traits. And yet, very, very few will raise as many important questions as this one did. For me, this is a must-watch for any fan of film, regardless of how they feel about found footage or thrillers. The themes and cast diversity alone should propel this movie forward, but thankfully, it has a lot more going for it than that. It made me think about my heritage, my own relationship with my father, and my filmmaking career. Some minor plot issues and a bit of technical blandness aside, “Victor’s History” is one of the most memorable and relevant found footage films I’ve watched in the past 21 years. I
And I’ve watched a lot of them.
WATCH VICTOR’S HISTORY ON AMAZON PRIME: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07S8YLCMJ