Horror

‘It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This’ Review – Found Footage Movie Won ‘Best Feature’ at Salem Horror Fest

“This is going to be a messy story, and you probably won’t believe it. But it’s messy because it’s true, and the truth is always messy.”

Thus begins It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, a unique found footage effort that filmmakers Rachel Kempf and Nick Toti have vowed to never release on physical media or streaming; the only way to see it is at a film festival or other one-off live engagement. This bold strategy makes any screening inherently special for the attendees while ensuring their undivided attention.

Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, Kempf and Toti star as themselves alongside longtime friend Christian (credited only by his first name). Not only are personal details from their lives from interpersonal dynamics to deep-seeded grievances incorporated into the plot, but the movie also utilizes footage from nearly 20 years of their friendship.

The film documents Rachel and Nick’s purchase of a derelict duplex in rural Missouri with the intention of shooting a micro-budget horror movie. Real life proves to be scarier than a movie when strangers begin lurking outside the house in a trance-like state. After discovering a makeshift altar in the attic, they hold a dread-inducing séance that yields unfathomable results.

As is the case with most found footage efforts, the horror of It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This is only hinted at in the first half before hell literally breaks loose. Crucially, the authentic dynamic between Kempf, Toti, and Christian translates on screen, and they each deliver earnest, likeable performances with a palpable history between them.

Outside of the radical release tactic and incorporation of archival footage, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This‘ approach to found footage is deceptively conventional. Adhering to the resourceful mechanisms established by The Blair Witch Project, the filmmakers tenaciously commit to the concept with a disquieting ambiguity and a raw aesthetic that furthers the verisimilitude.

Where the film cleverly subverts tropes is in the credibility it lends to the found footage conceit. While most movies in the subgenre are challenged to invent a tenable reason for the filming to continue, Kempf and Toti can’t help but explore it. In addition to being narratively driven, it speaks directly to the plight of the indie filmmaker. Resources are pushed to their limits, relationships are tested, confidence wavers, but the integrity of the film remains paramount.

While not exactly a slow-burner, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This requires patience from the viewer. Favoring tension over overt scares, Kempf and Toti establish an unsettling atmosphere early on and sustain it throughout most of the picture. Unease peaks with several haunting moments aided by purposefully abrasive sound design.

In a time when a never-ending deluge of content and screens are vying for attention, it’s increasingly difficult to get viewers fully invested in a movie. It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This‘ theatrical-only release strategy creates an intimate, immersive environment for audiences to feel as vulnerable as the characters on screen. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This screened at Salem Horror Fest, where it won the jury award for Best Feature. Visit DieDieVideo to stay up to date on future screenings.

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