Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror,Mystery,Thrillers Movie Review of ‘The Jungle’ (2013)

Movie Review of ‘The Jungle’ (2013)

The third feature-length endeavour for Australian writer-director Andrew Traucki, The Jungle caps off the filmmaker’s self-proclaimed “Traucki Trilogy of Terror,” following Black Water and The Reef. Whereas his prior motion pictures were water-based creature features, The Jungle is a different beast entirely, with Traucki mounting a “found footage” production set entirely on land. It’s a tricky subgenre to handle, with the novelty having worn off long ago thanks to sheer overpopulation. Fortunately, Traucki was up to the task, utilising an effective “less is more” approach to create a spine-tingling exercise in terror.

A big cat conservationist, Larry Black (Rupert Reid) spearheads an expedition to Indonesia where he hopes to find evidence of the rare and endangered Javan Leopard. Tagging along is Rupert’s brother Ben, taking with him an array of filming equipment in order to thoroughly document the potentially groundbreaking mission. Travelling overseas, Larry meets locals Budi (Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo) and Adi (Igusti Budianthika), heading into the wilderness despite warnings that an evil spirit may be looming in the jungle. As the days pass, the team begin to encounter frightening things, and it gradually becomes clear that there may be more than just leopards stomping around.

The Jungle benefits from impressive craftsmanship. Found footage productions are oftentimes too unrealistically shaky, but the photography is crisp and smooth here while still possessing the sense of rawness that’s required to help us believe that this is genuine found footage. The Jungle was lensed in New South Wales, Australia, with Byron Bay standing in for the dense forests of Indonesia. To enhance the sense of place, Traucki flew to Indonesia to shoot second unit footage which is intercut with images of the actors. The illusion is seamless, and it genuinely feels as if we’re stuck in the Indonesian wilderness with the protagonists. And when the shit hits the fan, it’s the bone-chilling sense of isolation which keeps us interested. The sound design warrants a mention, as well. Due to the found footage angle, there is no music at all, hence a skikful sound mix was necessary to maintain interest. Fortunately, it works. The atmosphere is spot-on, and the roars which emerge from the darkness will give you goosebumps.

Traucki manages to avoid many of the usual found footage pitfalls, most notably in relation to the characters. Even the protagonists in The Blair Witch Project are idiotic and hard to latch onto, but The Jungle features a strong selection of characters played by some terrific actors. Reid is a charismatic presence, and his performance as Larry is suitably naturalistic. Larry seems to act like a real human being – when things get intense, we can understand Larry not wanting to turn back, as they’ve spent so much time on the expedition, and leaving the wilderness will effectively render the whole exercise pointless. If there’s a fault with The Jungle, it’s that the characters at times seem to be a little too aware of their surroundings in the pitch black darkness. The cameraman can see due to the night vision, but other characters seem to navigate too freely at times. On top of this, Larry’s wife begins getting overly emotional in an early interview, explaining that Larry is away too long for too often. The notion is a little too clichéd, and the emotion feels too sudden and out of place.

It’s clear at this point that Traucki is a talent to keep your eye on, as he has come a long way since his feature-length debut in 2007. Although it’s difficult to rank his films from best to worst as they all have their respective pros and cons, The Jungle is the director’s most technically accomplished effort, blessed with slick production values easily as impressive as any multi-million dollar picture. It doesn’t reinvent the subgenre by any stretch, but it does its job well enough, and the finale closes the door with a very well-staged shit-your-pants moment.

6.8/10

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