Bodom has the honor of being the first Hungarian found-footage film. This threw me off at first since the film is based on a murder case that happened in Finland. I’m only vaguely familiar with the Lake Bodom murders, which is sort of like the Zodiac case. Four teenagers were camping in the summer of 1960, when three were found dead, with one critically injured. No perpetrator has been found. It’s an interesting case that can serve a solid foundation for any piece of fiction.

Unlike many found-footage films, Bodom takes a very literal and refreshing approach. The film is formatted like a documentary that explores the footage found from two media students, Annikki (Vivien Turzó) and Pietari (Bence Kovács), who are doing a thesis on the case. The footage is intercut with various interviews with friends and relatives of Annikki and Pietari, providing context to certain moments as the story progresses. It’s a clever way of grounding the film whereas other found-footage films simply have a guy shaking the camera around for 90 minutes.

Speaking of which, the relatively short hour and five minute runtime allows the film to move at a good pace with very little fat in its plot. Every scene holds relevance and keeps things moving forward. It’s tightly constructed from a writing perspective, though I do think certain character beats could’ve been expanded upon. Regardless, the actors, most of whom seem to be first-timers, all do a solid job with the material. Though, I think the biggest praise goes to the filmmaking behind the film. Despite some budget limitations, directors Gergö Elekes and József Gallai managed to make the most of their actors and location, as well as some solid editing throughout the film. There was an occasional “glitch” that would happen during the footage sequences, which got obnoxious, but as soon as something was revealed towards the end, it made sense. I really liked how from the get go, the film establishes a sense of doom and gloom that echoes through the rest of the film. The use of a real case, which I can see some thinking is exploitative, is nonetheless effective and it adds a lot of tension even when not much is happening. It’s the key to any slow-burn horror and Bodom does it right.

Bodom is the kind of film that ultimately leaves you with more questions than it does answers, but I think it plays it out just right. Giving too much away risks making the film’s payoff unintentionally silly or disappointing, and giving away too little would’ve been lackluster and unsatisfying. Balancing the bizarre and surreal with the real and authentic is a hard trick to pull off. I wouldn’t necessarily call Bodom a “must-see” or anything like that. It is, however, a solid that showcases some talent from people both in front of and behind the camera. It’s an interesting creepy and well put-together mix of Zodiac and Blair Witch Project that any fan of found-footage can get a kick out of.