It’s been a while, Mr. Harper. When you’re producing a movie independently, it takes a little while longer to finish principal photography and post-production edits. I’ve been keeping fans up to date on Johnnard Harper’s new feature film, Captured, since March 2016 and now he’s finally rolling it out to film festivals in 2018. Of course, he was gracious enough to provide me with one of the first screeners, and I was excited to see how he’s progressed as a film-maker since his debut short Miss Mary Mack (2014) and debut feature Urban Myths (2015). Frontdoor Film Works presents Captured, a horror-drama about a camera with a particularly nasty spirit attached to it. After it possesses their friend and forces him to kill himself, the camera goes on to terrorize a small group of young people as they attempt to exorcise the vengeful entity. Denisha Hardeman, Drew Shotwell, Johnnard Harper, Alexandra Mauro, Bianca Tonsall, Bruce Owdley, Kris Trapp and Christopher Hill star in a movie produced by prod Kyle Lee, Sergio Leroy, Randy Garza, Aaron Wheatley, Ashley Kemp and Jeanetta Brantley.
Stylistically, I think Captured comes across more professional than Urban Myths. Its overall picture quality is clearer and it’s definitely a look that independent distributors would go for. You can tell a high class camera was used, and writer/director Johnnard Harper and cinematographer/editor Derek Huey sure knew how to use it. When I try to equate it to other works of media in terms of visual content, I fall back on the idea of music videos, which is actually quite fitting because the majority of background music in Captured were R&B slow jams. At times, Captured looks like it could fit as a Brandy music video (does she still make bops nowadays?) or something Dawn Richard would have put out before she got all weird. This all fits together in a cohesive way since Captured plays out like a drama through most of its first half hour. Friendships are tested, friends come together, and love is on the table. It’s relaxed, subdued and kind of glamorous before it heads into the horror territory.
At first, I thought Captured was going to be a mix of The Ring and The Happening; where the haunted video camera makes you kill yourself after you take your picture with it. However, it turns out the evil spirit lurking within the electronic device is just a bitch of all sorts and will do whatever it takes to kill you. This includes the power of persuasion as well as possessing a human body to try and get them to murder someone else. The spirit is also able to manifest its energies through classic haunting techniques like rearranging the kitchen cabinets on its own. It’s clear that the young people who own the camera are in way over their heads, but good Google searches and the advice of loved ones propel them into a battle against evil that they never knew existed. It was fun to watch them struggle and fight against an otherworldly presence with a lot more on the line than a new lens. The actors’ portrayals were fun and realistic. There was a little bit of under-acting, but that mostly came from the performers with more minimal roles. The leads in Captured nailed this one and played into the dramatic tone that Johnnard Harper built around this horror flick. Props all around.
My notes didn’t have any criticisms, honestly, outside of the audio being “fishbowl-ee” in a couple places. Captured was worth the wait and better than I expected. Captured is a decent horror-drama, and Johnnard Harper fully understood his product and took it to completion in the cleanest and clearest way possible. Is Captured low on the horror spectrum? Yes, but Harper’s always been the type of director that goes for a good story and grand designs over shock-and-awe scare tactics. Viewers who enjoy an earthy, urban, independent production with themes of possession and exorcism will dig this one. Is Captured geared at a certain demographic? Yes, but I think all viewers who enjoy titles with blurring genre boarders will need to check it out. Mixing so many elements together in such a way that makes so much sense, I genuinely hope that Captured is able to strike up a distribution deal. After its film festival run, it’s too good to waste away on YouTube and I know I’d like to see another independent film-maker to reach that level of success.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10