I found this movie stayed with me in a way I did not expect. There is the possibility that I underestimated it due to the thumbnail that looked like it had been made by a person just discovering MS Paint; once it began, however, I was hooked.
The protagonist is unlikable and very flawed-his tone of voice and way of talking to his support group via these vlog updates leaves us wondering: did he leave D.C because he struggled to make and maintain friends? He is part of an O.C.D support network and that really comes across in the character's fastidious nature. I can't help but feel sorry for him and, though he's kind of irritating, you get the impression that he is a decent guy who just wants some peace and quiet. He hikes a bit (which is an American pastime I have never understood, along with bowling and shooting people) and discovers a cat's skull nailed to a tree, as you do. The letter B is carved above it.
M.R James' protagonists were often scholarly, academic types who came a cropper due to their active disbelief in the supernatural. The protagonist here is the modern day equivalent: a techie. He attempts to record a noise he thought he heard in the dead of night by using a Tascam/MP3 recorder. We sit with him as he begins the laborious and tedious scrolling through, looking for bumps in the audio. He is not disappointed.
Now, I teach creative writing and I am always reminding students that horror is always skating very close to hilarious. To say that he hears noises and they are unnerving is to do a disservice to the ambition Criss shows here. There are no spooky demon growls, no clanking chains, just a staccato 'chop, chop' and a plaintive voice saying "Why? Why are you doing this?" It's horrible. It's just really sad and completely without any context.
He is, understandably, worried by this and sets up the recorder again. The next morning when editing he hears something that should be funny, if not laugh out loud hilarious: the sound of a flautist playing Claude Debussy's Prelude to a Faun. It isn't funny, though. It makes the flesh crawl. It's three am and somebody is playing the flute outside his window. It's a touch that makes this feel like a very different kind of ghost story.
He then decides to try and document this phenomena with a hunting camera tied to a tree (which is predictably stolen and shows a few shots of the interior of the house, including just outside his bedroom door.) This sequence also has a rather disturbing still image of a dead cat with a rather opaque poem set beside it.
Bunny by Vandal
Most beautiful tart
There are also shadowy images of what looks like a girl and a male figure-possibly the killer of said cat? There is such little exposition that the ghostly goings on are almost ours to play with, which adds strength to the fear factor as there's no obvious motive. Possibly a man and woman lived out here in a twisted relationship, culminating in the nailing of her cat to a tree to teach her a lesson? Then she played the flute? It's almost better that you don't try to analyse the 'why' as it isn't supposed to make sense.
The final act is tricky. The noises do not abate, Josh has been consulting internet forums and is told to leave the presence alone but he cannot. At the same time the next night Josh, on his umpteenth whiskey, decides to go and confront the noises with his gun. We hear shouts of surprise, then terror, then shots, then silence. The camera he had been using suddenly moves as if picked up, and we fade to black.
I have given this 10 stars because it is different. It isn't perfect but it is brave and it certainly played on my fears of solitude, the woods and of classical music.