Exhibit A (2007)

Rating:

UK. 2007.

Crew

Director/Screenplay – Dom Rotheroe, Story – Darren Bender & Dom Rotheroe, Producer – Darren Bender, Photography – Rob Hardy, Makeup Effects Design – Tim Berry, Production Design – Sami Khan. Production Company – Bigger Pictures/Warp Films

Cast

Bradley Cole (Andy King), Angela Forrest (Sheila King), Brittany Ashworth (Judith King), Oliver Lee (Joe King)


Plot

A tape taken from police evidence in Leeds, Yorkshire. Judith King received a camcorder for her birthday and began to record the daily life of her family. Her father Andy received a promotion at work and plans were made to sell their home and buy a new house. Cracks in their everyday normalcy began to appear when the purchase of the new home fell through and in her father’s efforts to dig a swimming pool to add to the sale value of the property. As became apparent and captured on tape by Judith, Andy had not been promoted at all and was trying to cover up the fact, while dealing with the fact that the family was falling apart financially. With this revelation, Andy responded by taking the camera and exposing secrets that each of the family members held. This caused a major rift that led to a grim and horrible conclusion.


Exhibit A is a venture into the Found Footage genre. It should be noted that Exhibit A came out at a time when the Found Footage genre was just starting to find its feet and before it went stratospheric following the widespread release of Paranormal Activity (2007) in 2009. It was the second fictional film for British director Dom Rotheroe who had previously made the tv documentaries A Sarajevo Diary (1993) and The Coconut Revolution (2000) and then the fiction film My Brother Tom (2001), a similarly hard-hitting realist work that examined issues of abuse and rape. In between, Dom Rotheroe has worked as a reporter for Al-Jazeera news.

The good part about Exhibit A is that it was made before the Found Footage genre turned into a tide of unimaginative copies that soon blurred into a sameness. There is no sense that it is following a quickly worn stylistic formula, nor that it is slotting into any horror genre conventions. Certainly, it is borderline as a genre vehicle. It is more a portrait of a family where economic pressures are causing the facade of normalcy to crack apart, before the slow slip into disturbed psychology. What also comes through is a theme we have not seen in any other Found Footage films – the idea of the camcorder as an interrogative medium and the only eye of unblinking honesty in a family of secrets, one that is first unwittingly recording evidence of something the father is trying to cover up and then, when this is exposed, is turned around and used to dig into the other secrets the family members are concealing.

Dom Rotheroe and his cast do a fine job in creating a portrait of a credible ordinary family and the pressures they undergo. One must remember that they are coming to Exhibit A after subsequent Found Footage films bothered to do little than in effect act as Dogme 95 films with young people wandering around various haunted locations and the like. By contrast, this is a film that uses the ragged rawness of Found Footage to craft nuanced characters and unveil a series of secrets and surprises. The last shot of the film [PLOT SPOILERS] where father Bradley Cole kills teenage daughter Brittany Ashworth by giving her a hug and then strangling her in front of the camera, followed by his going off camera and murdering the others, is grimly horrific.



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