I’m a sucker for a good title, and Malibu Horror Story lands in that perfect sweet spot between ‘this is going to be bonkers’ or ‘this is going to be a steaming pile of yes please’. Add on the fact that Malibu Horror Story is told in a multimedia found footage style, and you’ve not only got me in the theatre, but front row center.

 

“..an impressive jaunt in the Found Footage space”

 

Written and Directed by Scott Slone, Malibu Horror Story jumps timelines between a gang of friends who go missing in the Malibu hills and their Youtube savvy friends following their trail while hunting for answers, and some of that sweet sweet content for their channel.

Malibu Horror Story is an indie picture, but you wouldn’t guess it by the visuals. The color is rich and deep, blues pop at night, and the film has serious depth. Though not entirely recorded in traditional found-footage style, there are news broadcasts and interviews aplenty, even the Youtubers pack some serious gear to keep a crystal clear picture throughout. (Not including the tried and true ‘glitching’ of course. A found footage staple.)


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And too, Malibu Horror Story details its mysterious disappearances with an impressive multimedia clipshow. A News Anchor details the strange disappearance from what appears to be a pretty legit news set. An authentic-looking news scroll is plastered below an on-scene reporter as she details the boys’ vehicles being found in the brush. The vintage photos of Native American lore, the owners of the property, old news articles – a lot of care went into the visuals of this film, and it shows. For this, Malibu Horror Story is an easy watch; you won’t get headaches or nausea (I’m looking at you original Cloverfield), and even found-footage naysayers who nitpick camera quality will find it pleasantly watchable.

 

 

 

Where Malibu Horror Story feels the most ‘indie’ is with its straight-to-the-point dialogue. Characters feel inauthentic at times, and while you make some leniency for the acting proficiency in an indie, the dialogue was so on the nose it did the actors little favor. And because of the film’s want to explore two major timelines at once, time is of the essence when it comes to plot delivery. Our Youtubers suffer the worst, making discovery leaps and assumptions so swift, they’ll give you whiplash. At one point, one character pulls out some ancient book of Native American spirits, flips her way through a Baker’s Dozen of different Cliff’s notes on every important detail about our maybe-paranormal-maybe-not-beastie in a single scene. I’m not at the buffet, serve it in separate courses please. (sorry for all the food references, I haven’t eaten dinner yet)


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Because the film is juggling so many plates, when the finale of scares ramps up, it’s under-served. (that’s the last one, I promise) We’re given a really impressive spookshow, but it isn’t given enough time to breathe. And especially when tapping into the rich lore of Native American folklore, you have to be very respectful as to not to tip into gimmick. Malibu Horror Story almost insults its explanation, simply by not giving it enough time to be center stage.

 

 

When our spooks do make an appearance, I will admit, they’re spooky. Utilizing the contorting mastery of Troy James; who you’ll recognize from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Channel Zero, Anything for Jackson, and Nightmare Alley, our characters are chased through darkened caves, jiggling their cameras pointed in all the right places. The jumpscares are good when they’re legit; early on in the film one of the guys pops out of a random hole in the desert and it’s more like ‘okay I guess they couldn’t see you’ rather than  ‘Ah you got me’. But don’t worry, the fake-outs don’t last long. Soon the things that pop up in the shadows are very, very freaky.

 

Though it has its pitfalls, Malibu Horror Story is an impressive jaunt in the Found Footage space. Its finale is a little rushed, but there is some real technique and skill behind the camera. It makes for a great Friday night watch, and a good little movie to share if you want to scare your pals.

 

We caught Malibu Horror Story out of Panic Fest! See more of our Panic Fest coverage as it drops here. Chat about this flick and all things horror with us on our Discord!