In a sub-genre of horror bereft of new and fresh ideas, Savageland stands out amongst the modern crop of found footage movies. Simply by taking a different stance on it, ramping up the mystery and adding a whole lot of social commentary to its documentary-style presentation.
You’ll remember Savageland afterwards even with its flaws.
Playing out like a true-crime documentary (very effectively too), Savageland focuses on the small town of Sangre De Cristo. A town on the border of Arizona and Mexico where over-night almost every resident was wiped out. A fictional case described as the largest mass murder in American history.
There was one survivor though, a man named Francisco Salazar who was picked up afterwards and charged with the murders, all 57 of them.
What follows is the analysis of Salazar’s supposed crimes and the events that may have taken place that night. Interviews and thoughts from locals, the authorities, the families and loved ones of victims and more.
For many, Salazar is a guilty man but for some, something just don’t sit right. Something that we as the viewer can share. Especially when a roll of film from Salazar’s camera is found and developed.
These images tell a different and all together, more terrifying tale.
Going down the mockumentary route was a smart decision and is what makes Savageland necessary watching. The crime that took place is horrific yet with no real proof, the authorities are desperate to make sure Salazar takes the fall.
Pulling no punches, the movie is happy to talk about racism and corruption. While never overtly implying stuff (a lot of it is up to you to decide), its clear the aim was to be as suggestive as possible. This makes for a fascinating watch.
However, it is a horror movie at its core and Savageland builds and builds its tension. Don’t expect a shocking release though. This is all about tightening the screws until you’re as uncomfortable as possible.
The lengthy sequence where Salazar’s trip through the town that night is recreated while we are shown each accompanying photo is truly impressive stuff.
If the movie has flaws it is with its final moments and with some of its acting. The latter is forgivable seeing as Savageland really goes for the ‘real’ feel, however the former is less so. Tacked on and unnecessary. Subtly goes out the window for a more ‘in-your-face’ attempt to shock. It’s very frustrating but doesn’t detract from the overall class of the movie.
One of the best found-footage horrors in a very long time.
The Final Score - 7.5/10