Written by: Matt Patti | July 21st, 2022
Infrared (Robert Livings/Randy Nundlall Jr., 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
The found-footage horror fad popularized in the 2000s seems to still have some steam left in it, especially in the indie space. These films are still amongst the most popular and most prevalent small-budget horror releases, and that’s likely due to the fact that they cost so little. Many of said productions are forgettable, and some are downright awful attempts at filmmaking. Therefore any time a found-footage film actually piques my interest, does something different or unique, or is simply a well-made story, I’m pleasantly surprised. Such is the case with directors Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr’s Infrared. While it’s nothing overly special, Infrared presents a unique narrative with compelling characters, which is better than what can be said for many others of its kind.
In the film, charismatic paranormal investigator Wes (Jesse Janzen, First Date) is the star of a new show called “Infrared.” in which he and a production crew explore haunted locations and capture evidence of the paranormal. Wes also performs exorcisms on those who are in need, which are also filmed. Meanwhile, Wes’s sister Izzy (Leah Finity, also First Date), is a psychic who attempts to help people make contact with their loved ones and allow them to move on and become free. Though they do similar work, Wes and Izzy are quite distant and don’t speak to each other due to disagreements about their methods and reasons for doing what they do. However, when Wes and the Infrared crew gain access to an abandoned, tragedy-struck school, the producer of the show lures Izzy into being part of the episode. She reluctantly agrees, under the premise of helping Wes, and arrives on location, much to Wes’s dismay. They must now work together in order to discover the truth behind the mysterious school and its dark past so that they do not meet the same fate as those who died inside its walls.
The film opens quite spectacularly, with the energetic and enthralling Wes successfully performing an exorcism against all odds. From the very first moment he is on screen, the viewer feels connected and very captivated by Wes. Wes is extremely knowledgeable about paranormal investigating and shares some intriguing tidbits about ghost-hunting equipment, his typical methods of performing an investigation, and more. Janzen delivers an exceptional, very realistic performance. The same can be said for Finity’s performance as Izzy. I think the cast’s performances are aided in part by the directors’ decision to not stress perfect dialogue. In the film, characters do not speak in clean sentences, they actually stumble over some words and slip up at times. I believe this is actually a huge positive and a fantastic artistic choice, as the dialogue seems so much more natural and makes the film feel so much more real.
The plot itself seems cut and dry: a paranormal-investigation team investigates a supposedly haunted school where students have died due to a gas leak. However, the film is much more complex than that, which I honestly did not expect going in. There are ancillary characters that add much intrigue to the story, especially Izzy. Wes and Izzy’s complex and strained relationship makes for solid conflict which is much needed when spookier things aren’t taking place.
Unfortunately, the “spooky” aspect of the film is actually its weakest link. The film takes its time getting to the meat of the story (and the reason why most viewers will watch): the paranormal activity in the school. The second act of the film is very slow-paced and a bit dull. When the creepy, ghastly stuff does come around, however, it is quite intense, even if it doesn’t make the most sense or add up perfectly in the end. The film has other issues, as well, mostly the typical problems with found-footage films: absurd excuses to film people in awkward situations, “hot mic” moments in which the cameras accidentally capture a secret conversation, and people in danger continuing to keep their cameras rolling, come hell or high water.
Overall, Infrared is an above-average found-footage flick with characters that are more layered than most in this genre and a plot that has many sources of tension rather than just one. Nevertheless, it is lacking in the scares department and the paranormal activity is not as prevalent as it should be in a film like this. Had it balanced out the human conflicts and supernatural suspense, it would be much more satisfying in the end. Still, the human conflict keeps the viewer’s attention for the most part and the thrilling, if a bit confusing, finale puts the audience on the edge of their seats. Those aspects are enough to keep me invested, even if there are some missed opportunities.