Director: Michael Bafaro
Writer: Michael Bafaro
Starring: Don Knodel, Jeb Beach, Steve Thackray, Krista Magnusson, Lori Watt & Jason Simpson
Produced by: 430 Productions inc.
News reporter James Parnell (Don Knodel) and his cameraman Tom Whittaker (Jeb Beach) used to cover warzones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, James managed to upset his boss (and probably a few other people) by having sex with the wife of a French Consulate, whilst on assignment.
As a result, he now finds himself being sent out to cover whatever crappy story his boss throws his way. So it is that they find themselves in the town of Hatt’s Creek, Montana.
This particular assignment involves local ranchers who have reported their cattle going missing. The local consensus is that it's caused by either a roving wolf pack or a rogue grizzly bear.
So far, so standard.
And, not at all interesting as far as Parnell is concerned.
However, whilst in town interviewing the sheriff (Steve Thackray) they witness a car crash that they manage to get on film. Upon investigation, they find a dying man at the wheel of his truck with injuries that must have been sustained before the crash. Injuries such as the ragged stump where his arm once was. If that wasn’t intriguing enough, he manages to gasp out with his dying breath, “He’s still out there. He has my boy.”
Now, what was a rather dull missing cattle story has become a, more interesting, missing child story.
So, with the townsfolk riled up about the disappearance, Parnell and Tom join a search party that heads out into the woods.
Whilst this does all sound rather interesting; the movie poster does give away the mystery behind just what is out there, lurking among the trees. I mean, just look at the image. That footprint looks larger than normal.
Big, one might say.
Yes. Definitely a big footprint.
The movie is shot from the perspective of Tom’s camera, so what we have here is yet another found-footage movie. People tend to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the found-footage genre. But, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen more I enjoyed than I have ones I disliked.
Found-footage movies about a certain big-footed beastie aren’t anything new either; with films such as Exists and Willow Creek, already covering the style and topic.
Fortunately, Embedded does enough to make it not only stand out, but be enjoyable too.
One of the things that makes Embedded work is the fact that they have a very genuine reason for being out in the woods.
They’re searching for a missing child.
Not only that, but there is a group of them as well, so it’s not like we get another dose of camper getting lost because they’re unable to read a map or a compass. Also, having the local Sheriff’s office involved works well, as it removes that whole moment of having someone trying to phone 911 and then not getting a signal. Especially, when in the real non-movie world, you can call the emergency services, even without a signal, and still get through to them. Having the sheriff present negates all of that.
The reason for someone to be filming everything also makes sense when it’s being recorded for a news channel. They even start their piece by getting the white-balance.
So, the reason to be in the woods and the reason for filming are all covered very nicely.
The acting is good, especially from Parnell and Tom. Even though we don’t get to see Tom very often, we do get to occasionally hear his off-camera mumblings; which helps with getting the chemistry and (begrudging) friendship between the two of them. The camerawork isn’t overly shaky either and it’s usually fairly easy to tell what is occurring. Other than when you get the inevitable moments of the camera operator running for their lives, then, of course, everything is a smudged blur of images.
The townsfolk all come across well too. Some mug at the camera, whilst others just wander about in the background, getting on with their day-to-day. I especially liked the actress portraying the overenthusiastic waitress from the local diner who really sold her character. It all goes into making the characters believable, regular folks.
So, the plot works and the cast do a good job, but what about the creature with the excessive shoe-size?
Initially, when we first see the creature, I didn’t find it give a good sense of scale, so my first thought was that he was only around 4ft high. The other thing was that - due to preconceived notions of how the creature should look - when it is revealed, it does come as a bit of shock to see what a appears to be the evil love-child of a Womble and a Fraggle.
It is a little jarring.
Especially, as it is shot in full daylight. There is no hiding what the creature looks like and although it’s initially only a brief glimpse, you can’t help but find it look a little hokey at first. That is until you get used to how the creature looks. There is a night scene that shows the creature attacking and that’s when it really shines; coming across as a large powerhouse of rage as it stomps about, roaring and picking people up with ease.
It’s a great moment for showing just how dangerous this creature is.
One thing I wasn't entirely sure about though, was if there were supposed to be more than one of the woodland beasties roaming around? Especially, as near the end, when we see it in daylight once more and it looks shorter than during the night attack.
It made me wonder if there was perhaps an adult and a child?
I’m also pretty sure there was also a moment where it was glimpsed on one side of the screen, only to reappear on the other. Which would again suggest, that there was more than one.
Overall though, it works really well, with one really good moment with the creature just suddenly being right there in shot.
There’s no warning.
No orchestral build-up or scare-chord. It’s just suddenly there.
Overall, this was an entertaining flick and as long as you can get over the creature design being different to expectations, and occasionally looking as though someone picked up Gollum, coated him in glue and then rolled him around on the floor of the local barber’s, then you’ll probably enjoy Embedded.
It subverts expectations through creature design and contains enough believable characters, monster moments and severed torsos to keep things entertaining.