SHF2024: When It Comes to Found Footage, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Image courtesy of Salem Horror Fest

What is your relationship with the macabre like? Some people compartmentalize their love for ghouls and goblins to just the Halloween season, while others find real-world connection in the paranormal by keeping that spirit open all year long. I, myself, am probably among the latter individuals, devouring horror films, books, and games all year long. Yet, I don’t think I’ve ever bled horror like Rachel Kempf. Kempf is the co-writer/director/producer/star of the newfound footage film It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, where she plays an exaggerated, obsessive version of herself. Where I know my limits, the Rachel on film seemingly has none. That’s proven when she and her friends knowingly purchase a dilapidated house with a haunted past in the hopes of provoking paranormal events and capturing them on film for a movie.

a woman in a grey winter sock hat stands below a painting of bloody teeth in the poster for IT DOESN"T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS

As far as found footage movies go, depictions of haunted houses are pretty abundant within the genre. Kempf and her team, consisting of co-director/producer/writer/star Nick Toti and co-writer/supporting actor Christian (who I can’t find a last name for), find ways of keeping this film feeling fresh by utilizing effective tried-and-true scare tactics instead of convoluting their movie with overt and unnecessary gimmicks. I think found footage fans will understand what I’m talking about. No one is lofting around a phone to make you assume a ghost has started their filmmaking career. Neither is there a camera tied to a rotating fan. It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This uses the camera to capture the perspective of Nick as the narrator, granting the audience a raw and earnest portrayal of what the character witnesses.

What transpires in It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This is a story of selfish obsession. Rachel, Nick, and Christian start their venture by buying a tattered, rundown haunted house with the hope of capturing something supernatural until, of course, they do. Then it begins to fall apart. It starts with the constant attention their house seems to get. Strangers from all over arrive to gaze in a daze at their house from their front lawn. Their admiration trance is analogous to a moth’s fixation with an open flame. Things only grow more disconcerting when a séance in the house leads to the appearance of a threatening mural appearing in the living room, all while more and more people begin to gather outside. Rachel becomes more consumed by the events, though those around her wonder how far she’s willing to go to make her movie.

A man standing beneath a sheet pretending to be a ghost in a dark empty room while a shadowy figure is seen through the window

Operating on a DIY budget, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This finds ways to be charmingly creative. There aren’t a lot of fancy tricks, just old-school fear tactics and remarkable patience on display here. The thick atmosphere keeps the blood pumping throughout the film, compounded by a tense buildup of creepy moments of Nick and Rachel scouring the property’s basement and attic, or standing around as people gather in the periphery. While I will admit the séance scene lasts just long enough to disengage the viewer, the result will send your fight-or-flight sense into overdrive, revving up the viewer for a real mindf*ck of an ending.

There’s not much to comment on on the technical side since the film is done in the Blair Witch spirit. This is a labor of love picture, made with grit and heart. Kempf and Toti put themselves into the work, with almost twenty years of archival video intercut throughout the picture, giving the impression that this is, in fact, found footage. Honestly, it’s incredible how much commitment is on display in the film. Furthermore, the feature’s loud, unnerving sound work is deliberately panic-inducing, and I would recommend seeing it with the lights down and the sound up. Audience reactions at Salem Horror Fest this weekend should be exciting for the filmmakers in attendance.

Thematically, there’s a light morality tale on display here as Rachel ignores warning signs and becomes intoxicated in her quest for the most compelling footage to use in her film. Because some of the footage is real, it stirs the audience a little when Rachel risks the safety of other characters and gets pushed away, helping further the fantasy of It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This by blurring reality.

a woman covers her mouth at the painting of three shadow figures with yellow eyes standing among flames inside a creatures large fanged mouth.

On the story side, I have some minor nitpicks, specifically with something designed in the first act that I expected to come back around but never did. I also wished the finale provided more explanation regarding the phenomena the audience observes and the experience of the one character whose experience is overshadowed by the film’s enthusiasm to show what happened to the others.

Regardless, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This contains an air of alarm felt from the second the group enters the house. When they’re not in the house, we’re aching for the group to get to the house, finding copious chills and thrills until the innovative flash-lit credits begin to roll. This is a found footage flick that’s worth a watch simply enough because of how believable a found footage movie it is. If this kind of innovative filmmaking can come for Rachel Kempf and Nick Toti with little to no budget, imagine what they’d be able to create with a few bucks.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This plays at 8:00 PM this Friday at Die With Your Boot On as a part of Salem Horror Fest’s Weekend I. Tickets for the festival are on sale now and include access to a multitude of films and events throughout this coming April 26 through April 28 weekend.

Written by Sean Parker

Sean lives just outside of Boston. He loves great concerts, all types of movies, video games, and all things nerd culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A man and a kaiju looking scared

Kaiju No. 8: “The Kaiju Who Defeats Kaiju” (S1E2) Shows What Kafka Is Capable Of

A woman in front of a crowd

Dancing Village: The Curse Begins Reveals a Small Community’s Darkest Secret