Review – ‘The Warrensdale Mystery’ Written and Directed by Chris J. Lara

In this fictional, true crime style mockumentary film, we explore the unnerving tale of three young men who inexplicably go missing, while out on their annual winter holiday in the remote hills of northern Pennsylvania.

Synopsis

In this fictional, true crime style mockumentary film, we explore the unnerving tale of three young men who inexplicably go missing, while out on their annual winter holiday in the remote hills of northern Pennsylvania. A myriad of disturbing and eerie clues come too light, but investigators find themselves at a loss. Than, exactly one year later, a dead body is discovered on the very same property that the men disappeared from…but he is not one of the missing trio. The body belongs to that of a man who himself disappeared twelve years prior over a thousand miles away from Pennsylvania. How this gruesome new development links to the trio’s disappearance is unclear.

Over the ensuing years, shocking new revelations are uncovered…but with every new lead, only more questions arise. What exactly happened in the remote woods of Warrensdale in order to give birth to this frightening enigma that stubbornly holds on to it’s dark secrets? Join us as we explore the odyssey that is…The Warrensdale Mystery.

Review

Written by Chris J. Lara, Anthony Serrano and Ollie Torian and directed by Chris J. Lara, The Warrensdale Mystery is a feature length crime procedural about three men who disappear in the woods without a trace. The film stars Ainsley Jane, Derrick Knight, Nikki Hrichak and Anthony Johnson.

The Warrensdale Mystery is a fictional, true crime style mockumentary which dives into the disturbing tale of three young men who suddenly vanish while out on their annual winter holiday in the remote hills of northern Pennsylvania. As investigators begin to focus on the mystery, disturbing and eerie clues come to light, but they fail to lead anywhere concrete. However, this all changes with the sudden appearance of a dead man a year later in the same place where the trio vanished from. As this new body is determined to be of someone who vanished a thousand miles away more than a decade ago, the mystery barrels to a shocking conclusion.

Where are the three men? Who abducted them? Are they even alive? Or is there something more sinister and foul at play? Chris J. Lara lays the foundation of an epic mystery as the audience struggles to piece together these questions, leading us down a rabbit hole of confusion that blurs reality and fantasy. The film’s biggest success is its aspect of mystery. As the film slowly builds up to a brutal finale, the audiences are taken along for the ride as we desperately try to unravel the overarching mystery in our heads.

For a mockumentary, the acting is fantastic across the board. Mockumentaries have to balance their tone really well and not be too obvious in making fun of their subject matter. The acting plays a large role in this regard and here, the cast manages to ace the project really well. Ainsley Jane, Derrick Knight, Nikki Hrichak Anthony Johnson and others are impressive and the film’s structure of interspersing interviews with footage makes this police procedural that much more believable. As the sleuths dig down, we are thrust into CCTV footage, email records and other electronic footprints as the investigation gets underway.

Visually speaking, the film is a unique experience that warrants a second look. The cinematography is unique and the cinematographer has done a fantastic job ensuring that the thriller does not look bombastic for the sake of it and those tense, unnerving moments of mystery look as energised and unpredictable as possible. The result is that the film feels more like a spy thriller and this is probably for the best. The onscreen display of electronic evidence not only helps keep the film apart from dozens of similar films in the market, it also makes for an exciting and novel viewing.

Another aspect that is frequently overlooked by reviewers is the sound design. The sound mixing team has done a terrific job here, invoking a true sense of dread every second of the film and ensuring a consistent theme of fear and confusion throughout the story. The sound design of a mystery thriller has a significant part in ensuring how the story unravels feels true and the creative team here has done really well in this regard.

Keeping it all together is Chris J. Lara’s direction whose penchant for brisk editing keeps this mystery just over an hour. With so much information to glean through, Lara ensures the audience does not get lost in the details. The plot, the tidbits and the characters are balanced with such efficacy that the film manages to be an impressive achievement, one that is as crowd pleasing as it is detailed and complex.

Thus, The Warrensdale Mystery is a great film, one that hooks the audience by its intriguing central premise, only to lead us down a rabbit hole of secrets. Expertly combining digital surveillance with interviews, this visual police procedural manages to do several things right. While the payoff of the mystery by the end may not satisfy some; I, for one, loved it and would recommend it to my friends.

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