REVIEW: The Fear Footage 3AM (2021)

Back in 2018, filmmaker Ricky Umberger released his anthology horror film The Fear Footage, a found-footage horror film that blew away almost every other film of its type. Last year, he followed it up with The Fear Footage 2: Curse of the Tape, an extremely meta single-narrative film that took everything great and scary about the first film and amped it up ten notches. This year, Umberger is set to release the final chapter in his series, The Fear Footage 3 AM, closing out a horrific story and series of events that only got more terrifying with each installment. 

In this film we're following Dennis Rosen, a YouTuber with a growing urban exploration channel who sets off to Darkbluff, Maryland in search of answers about The Fear Footage and Curse of the Tape. Are the movies real? Are they actual documentaries and found footage? Dennis decides to take the trek and talk to the residents of Darkbluff and get their thoughts on the movies. 

Upon arriving in town, though, Dennis is met with a vast emptiness. There are no cars and no people. Houses are sparse and completely abandoned, left untouched as though someone walked out of the place only seconds before he arrived. After finding nothing he decides to abandon the trip and check out a nearby abandonment to post to his channel, only to find himself trapped in Darkbluff, with roads that should lead out suddenly going nowhere.

Much like Umberger's previous two installments, 3 AM is shot almost entirely in first-person, with the audience smacked square into Dennis' view throughout most of the film. This adds an extreme intensity to the movie, and in many scenes makes the viewer feel like they're on a walk through the most terrifying haunted house in existence. Dennis finds himself trapped in the middle of a barrage of the dead and spends his nights trying to survive and his days wandering the roads trying to get out of town. 

I've said this before in reviews (and to anyone who will listen), but Umberger is a master at what he's done. His editing and sound mixing in all 3 of the Fear Footage films elevates them above and beyond the normal level of underground filmmaker, and both of these things also bring the films to a level that even major Hollywood horror films fail to reach: the films are balls-to-the-wall terrifying. That's such a rarity that I even get to say that, but each film, especially the second and now 3 AM, had the hair on the back of my neck standing up multiple times. 

I have spent the last 3 years hyping up The Fear Footage because I truly believe that they are the best underground horror films ever made. I wasn't expecting there to even be a third film after the ending of the second, but when I heard this was on the horizon, I was instantly hyped. The third film has one of the best wrap-around story endings in my memory, bringing the whole thing so full circle that I was literally left jaw agape wondering if Umberger had been planning this whole thing for years, or if he's just so damn good he tied it together seamlessly. 

Either way, this entire series is scary as hell, and having finished the trilogy late last night, I can truthfully say that The Fear Footage 3 AM is like walking through your own personal's the only film to ever give me nightmares. 

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