Carl Sundström’s Reportage November has all the hallmarks of a found-footage horror flick. A small group of friends travels into the endless forest in search of something, recording along the way, only to find themselves trapped in a series of spooky situations. The limited perspective allows the film to create tension and startling scares while characters exposit openly without anything feeling too unnatural. I’m not a huge fan of found-footage horror, including The Blair Witch Project, because such films frequently take advantage of the form’s inherent limitations as a way of avoiding setups and narrative resolution.
Linn Söderqvist (Signe Elvin-Nowak) is a journalist in Sweden who sets out to investigate a mysterious disappearance in the countryside north of Stockholm. She sees an opportunity in solving the story. A mother named Ulrika Jonsson (Marianna Ilona) went missing with her daughter, Alice, while on her daily walk by the woods. Eventually, the mother’s body was found partially mutilated, but Alice remained unfound. Linn relies on her videographer, Ola Hörnqvist (Jonas Lundström), to capture their adventure into the unknown.
Although it didn’t really connect with me, I can say Reportage November is admirably constructed, using the found-footage element to creatively tell a larger story about a woman trying to tell the truth in a culture that doesn’t want to hear it. The meat of the piece is bookended by documentary snippets of Linn and other talking heads discussing their time in the woods and the ensuing fallout. Unlike most stories in this style, a lot of detail is put into why they’re using a multi-camera setup while tromping around the woods. I appreciated it, even if the end result is much the same. The narrative conceit that the found footage is part of a large documentary also allows for additional time with doomed characters, giving them a bit more presence before their untimely ends. It’s not really my favorite genre, but I can appreciate how Sundström and company put some extra effort into making it their own.
It all eventually devolves into a spooky, dark concrete bunker littered with blood and refuse, where monstrous secrets and secret monsters patiently lurk. A few of the jump-scares are effective enough but nothing particularly new. The implication of child sacrifice and cannibalism is fun but underdeveloped — a necessary element of ambiguity for the broader persecution of our heroes when they return home but more explicit horror would’ve been welcome in the moment.
Fans of found-footage horror will probably find quite a lot to like here. The on-location Swedish scenery and forest are as gorgeous as you’d expect and certainly more fun to look at than the backwoods of Virginia. It’s not a poor entry in the annals of the genre, and it has some neat ideas, but it also doesn’t really do enough to make itself compelling to those skeptical of the overall found-footage approach. Without downplaying its obvious merits, the most honest review I can muster for Reportage November is that I hope it finds the audience it deserves. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I was part of that number.