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Popcorn Frights Film Festival 23' "Puzzle Box" - movie review

One film that has left an indelible mark on my memory is the eerie supernatural mystery thriller "PUZZLE BOX," crafted by Jack Digan. Unarguably one of the most terrifying offerings at Popcorn Frights, this film managed to maintain its grip on my senses from start to finish. Digan's creation stands as a stylish addition to the found footage genre, seamlessly interweaving contemporary intelligent horror elements from the past decade. While opinions among audiences might diverge on "PUZZLE BOX," my anticipation leans towards a predominantly positive reception. The intricate web of twists and turns ensures an engaging experience throughout, particularly for those who are accustomed to the visual aesthetics of found footage films.

"Puzzle Box" follows the tumultuous journey of two sisters: one grappling with drug addiction and the other steadfastly providing unwavering support. Portrayed by Kaitlyn Boyé and Laneikka Denne, the characters of Katie and Olivia exhibit a remarkable on-screen chemistry. Their familial conflicts, though compelling, are overshadowed by the enigmatic mansion that entraps them. The intensity escalates as an intruder, driven by a relentless desire to wreak havoc, enters the picture. A pivotal moment arrives with the stunning appearance of Cassandre Girard, whose striking beauty is rivaled only by the chilling ambiance that envelops the film. This haunting atmosphere within "PUZZLE BOX" is bound to linger in my thoughts for quite some time. The deft utilization of shadows, coupled with meticulous execution, effectively immerses the audience in the unfolding enigma.

Anticipated to thrive in any market it ventures into, "PUZZLE BOX" may warrant caution for casual viewers lacking substantial attention spans. The film brims with a myriad of intricacies, making it easy to become disoriented—a deliberate maneuver that underscores the brilliance of "PUZZLE BOX." While the found footage genre may not resonate with everyone, there will always be exceptions. Viewing "PUZZLE BOX" evoked memories of the classic found footage works by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, such as "REC." The well-paced narrative allows the mystery within the house to flourish, engaging the audience on multiple levels.

Yet, my only reservation aligns with the aspect that initially piqued my curiosity: the scare factor. In "PUZZLE BOX," the sustained intensity occasionally extends a tad too long, causing the film's momentum to wane. However, it's important to note that many viewers might struggle with the initial barrage of scares, potentially rendering my perspective as an anomaly. My own desensitization to horror works against me as a critic, making encounters with films like "PUZZLE BOX" all the more exhilarating.

Rating: 3.5/5

PUZZLE BOX is directed by Jack Digan and stars Kaitlyn Boyé, Laneikka Denne and Cassandre Girard.

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